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Pickleball One

Pickleball One

Written by Eric Hauter on 12/7/2023 for QW2  
More On: Pickleball One

Until I slipped on my Quest 3 and booted up Pickleball One, I wasn't terribly familiar with the game of Pickleball. Sure, I knew that Pickleball courts were springing up all over the United States (often to the consternation of neighbors). I knew that it was played with rackets. And I was aware that Matthew Perry played Pickleball earlier on the day that he passed away. But beyond that, I didn't really have any insight into what made the game so popular and attractive.

Pickleball One, developed by Playin Games, filled in a lot of the blanks for me. Thankfully, the game includes a nice, quick tutorial that fills the player in on the not-terribly-complicated rules of Pickleball. It turns out that Pickleball is actually pretty manageable by my old-man standards. A racket sport that doesn't require me to lift my arms above my shoulders? Sign me up!

Pickleball One knows exactly what it is, and exactly what it wants to deliver to the player; this is a Pickleball game, with excellent physics, perfect tracking, and seamless multiplayer. You won't find any clubhouses or fancy outfits for your avatar - and the game uses your Meta Quest avatar in-game, rather than having the player create something new and exotic. There are three courts to choose from - a forest, a club, and a city court - and the graphics and sound effects used to imply these settings are basic and minimal. 

So, beyond the choice of your racket shape and color, there aren't a lot of bells and whistles in Pickleball One. But what you do get is precise control over your Pickleball experience, and a lot of different ways to engage with the game. And I mean a lot

After running through the tutorial, I hopped into single player mode for a bit of training. There are a ton of ways you can practice to increase your Pickleball skills. Start out by having a machine lob balls across the net at you. Play unscored volley matches against an AI player. After a bit of that, graduate to trying out scored matches against the AI. Activate the augmented reality options, and bounce a ball off a nearby wall (I did this in my kids' playroom for a while; it works like a charm). As you feel more comfortable, just crank the difficulty a bit. You can find enough entertaining ways to practice your skills that you can easily kill hours of time just hitting a ball back and forth with the computer. 

Pickleball One also has excellent training and fitness functions. The training areas were invaluable when trying to learn how to serve. I was able to attempt serving fifty balls in a row, and the experience was slightly gamified, allowing me to extend a score multiplier when I would get onto a hot streak. The more advance training areas also teach the player how to hit the ball into certain areas, forcing the player to master skills like lobbing and dropping the ball. 

Even players that start from zero will notice that they quickly improve, and the game offers three difficulty settings that double as "shot assist", making it easier for beginners to keep the ball on the court. The physics in the game feel excellent; never once while playing Pickleball One did I feel that the game had done anything unfair. Every time I sent the ball soaring off of the court and into the scenery beyond, it was my own damn fault. In the moment, while you are playing, the simulation feels pretty real. 

I have a somewhat limited space in which I use my VR rig, and I loved that Pickleball One provides a variety of movement options that keep the game accessible regardless of your set up. If you have enough space, you can simply run around the court like you would in real life. With limited space and a strong enough stomach, you can use the analog stick on the Quest 3 controller to move and lunge for the ball. Or, if you are a sensitive type like me, the game will handily teleport you to a good spot to hit the ball - though anticipating where you will land and how that will intersect with the trajectory of the ball becomes a game in itself.

Pickleball One also allows for 1v1 or 2v2 online matches. Without nearly enough practice to feel confident in my skills, I hopped into a couple of online games with Gaming Nexus' John Yan, a veteran of racket sports. This is where Pickleball One really comes to life. Where several hours of practice still found me barely able to serve the ball over the net, playing against another human being really made me step up my game, enough that I was able to beat John in one out of the six games we played (pretty sure he let me win that one). I found that I was much more motivated to actually compete when my avatar's reputation was on the line.

Luckily, Pickleball One seems to have a fairly lively community, and the development team at Playin Games seems to be highly engages with the game, setting up tournaments and adding new content regularly. So it seems that there is good reason to return to the game regularly, at least to check out what is new.

Nothing says that every game needs to be a visual showcase. Not that Pickleball One is ugly, by any means. Rather, the game could be described as "somewhat spartan", or even "tightly focused". Pickleball One exists for one reason - to give players a realistic simulation of Pickleball and allow them to play with others in the community. If the game is measured by those criteria, then it succeeds enormously.  

Without a ton of bells and whistles, Pickleball One delivers a streamlined Pickleball experience that feels great. Pickleball One will teach you how to play Pickleball, train you to get better at it, and allow you to take those skills to the community that has gathered around the game. It ain't fancy, but it certainly gets the job done.

Rating: 7.5 Above Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

Howdy.  My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids.  During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories.  I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 and PS VR2 to my headset collection.  I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.

My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then.  I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep.  Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, Series S, PS5, PS VR2, Quest 3, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan.  While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.

When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host the Chronologically Podcast, where we review every film from various filmmakers in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.

Follow me on Twitter @eric_hauter, and check out my YouTube channel here

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