Flight is a common theme in virtual reality. Usually, it’s in a plane, a spaceship, or even an Iron Man suit. One of the earliest though was the idea of broomstick flight. As early as 2014, Back to Hogwarts appeared on the Oculus DK2 and was followed by several other fan projects and small games. Little Witch Academia: VR Broom Racing follows in those footsteps, mixing broomstick flight with kart racer mechanics.
At the time of launch, this is an Oculus Quest exclusive but there are plans for the game to come to PCVR and PSVR. This is due in Early 2021.
How’s The Story?
For those who enjoyed the Little Witch Academia anime, it features the seven students of Luna Nova Magical Academy. You have arrived as a guest student to take part in a broom racing tournament. This is a special event, where you have to do paired flights with other students.
The reason for the tournament is that there is too much magic around so a ritual is being done by the professors. Flying with special twin flying magic uses up a lot of the magic, which is why this was all arranged.
There’s a bit more to it, but that’s basically it. It’s a fairly simple storyline based around getting the magic under control. It pairs you up with each of the students in different races and has you compete. The story can be experienced in either English or Japanese, with short cutscenes between races.
A Flying Kart?
As you start Little Witch Academia: VR Broom Racing, it keeps things quite simple. You will join with another student and race against two other pairs. Leaning forward will let you start accelerating and from there you just need to aim the broomstick in the direction you want to go to navigate the course.
The course has a path through the air which you need to follow, circular gates to try and go through, obstacles, boosts, and items to pick up. Some courses even split into various paths, with different difficulties. Aside from the flying aspect, it plays as many other kart racers do. Even to the point that if you go off the course, you will be placed back on – just as if you went off the road and fell off an edge in a more typical game.
There are only two types of items that you can pick up in this game. Ones which boost you and ones which slow other players down. You can collect them and then cast the spell. You can also shoot other players with your wand, though I’ve personally found that I rarely saw other players after the start line. Even if they managed to overtake me for a bit, they were often on other paths.
The boosts and obstacles are similar to the items too. They speed you up or slow you down if you run into them. They sometimes move around, so they can quite difficult to hit or dodge if you’re going at top speed.
I found the racing experience quite a lot of fun, though the difficulty was a bit low after learning the tricks. I actually beat the first half of the twelve races without using any items. After that, it became more difficult, with faster flight, more moving obstacles, and courses adding in more sudden turns and sudden steep climbs. This caused a few sudden meetings with walls at first until I got used to it. Even then, I always got first place without an issue but sometimes had to replay later levels to get bonus objectives. Increased speed, particularly when using a lot of boosts, often meant missing gates when going through them all is an objective.
It’s worth noticing that there’s an online multiplayer mode too. Unfortunately, I’m writing this a few days before release and it is currently locked behind a ‘coming soon’ sign. I couldn’t say whether this will be available on the release date or not or how it will be. If just judging by how it normally goes with more niche virtual reality games, I wouldn’t expect it to be easy to find matches. There are also a couple of levels where the gameplay resolves around shooting spirits, but these are not common and the gameplay is mostly the same, aside from needing to shoot with your wand.
Unlocks and Upgrades
As you go through Little Witch Academia: VR Broom Racing, you can earn two types of currency for coming in first place, beating certain times, and going through gates. These can be spent on new brooms and gems to equip to the brooms. These appear in the shop as you complete stages.
The upgrades are nothing too unusual. Increase speed, acceleration, handling, and some bonuses to the shots from the wand. You do get some customization though, both in being able to choose a broom which specializes in a certain area and up to five gems to equip to it.
It was nice to have the option. A lot of similar games don’t let you upgrade or customize, so I was quite surprised to find it. You can switch between brooms if you want to change your playstyle too.
Unfortunately, I did find a few issues with the game. The first being how to unlock the ending. I’ll avoid story spoilers, but I will say that you have to complete the final race seven times. There’s nothing else to do at that point either, so it just feels too repetitive.
On the technical side, I’ve experienced a delay in textures appearing over models sometimes. At the start of a scene, you have to wait a second or two for characters to appear. Loading times can be fairly long. I imagine this might be better on the Oculus Quest 2 or other platforms when they are released. Another more serious issue is that while it only happened a couple of times, I did experience glitches where I couldn’t go through a gate to progress and another where a level wouldn’t end too.
Overall I think this is quite a fun game and would be enjoyed by fans of the series and people who are just interested in the broomstick flight aspect. The actual flying is great and I like the customization. I do wish the difficulty was a little higher, but it’s still fun to navigate the courses at high speed. There’s also that it’s fairly short on content, but that’s about standard for most virtual reality games.
LITTLE WITCH ACADEMIA: VR BROOM RACING IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks to UNIVRS for an Oculus Quest review code for this title.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.