With Halloween just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to pretend you’re a witch. But wait! There’s no need to start constructing houses out of confectionary to entrap small people or hang around on Scottish moors giving predictions to future kings, you can simply grab an Oculus Quest – or Oculus Quest 2 if you’re feeling swish – and jump into Little Witch Academia VR Broom Racing, a game bursting with anime witches who want to befriend you and take you broom racing.
Trigger’s Little Witch Academia is their most mainstream anime, starring Akko, a student witch who’s not particularly good at being a witch, but who is good at trying her absolute best. It’s light, it’s silly, and it has all the storytelling hallmarks of a Trigger show, though with far fewer severed limbs than Kill la Kill.
Little Witch Academia VR Broom Racing puts you right into the world of the anime. The visuals are just as you’d expect; bright green grass and lurid flowers play home to 3D versions of the well-known cast, while the Luna Nova school building looms large over everything. They are simplistic – there’s very little in the way of extra detail if you look around during conversations or mid-flight – but they’re effective enough.
Fans of the show will be pleased to discover that the full voice cast have worked on Broom Racing VR, so everyone here sounds exactly like they do in the anime. Akko is unnecessarily hopeful, Susy sounds like she’s eaten one too many mushrooms, and Diana carries the weight of upbringing and ability with every single syllable. If you wanted to feel like you’re one of the gang, Broom Racing certainly fulfils the fantasy, and as the audio is available in both English and Japanese, you’re covered either way.
It’s just a shame that the central broomstick flying is about as challenging as Velcro shoe straps. You don’t even fly on your own, but are inexplicably involved in some dual stick tethering with one of the cast, though it is you that largely dictates the direction and speed that you fly at. Races involve finding your way through a series of glowing rings, interspersed with magical portals that transport you to different areas to fly through.
No matter what environment you’re in, it’s as simple as pointing your broom in the right direction. It’s rare, even when using a magical power-up or flying through a speed-up, that you’ll feel remotely out of control, and as long as you’re capable of aiming a stick at a large hoop you’ll be able to finish in the top three of every single race.
There’s a sprinkling of other witch-y behaviour, as you can collect spells mid-race that you then cast with your free hand. Clutching your wand, it’s as easy as waving it in the air as you speed along, unleashing a speed boost or an ensnaring web that slows your opponents down. It adds a modicum of difficulty to what you’re doing, but it’s not
You assume that this is because they’re expecting Broom Racing VR to attract younger gamers, and fans will likely find enough to amuse themselves through an afternoon of Quest-ing, but there’s little reason to return. There will be an online component, which is “comming soon” [sic] and might add a little more replay value, but I can’t imagine it will have a hugely competitive online scene to sink into.
There is an element of upgrading as you progress, with both more powerful brooms and a small host of crystals that you can equip to further enhance your broom’s performance. It’s not exactly the Gran Turismo of brooms and the difference between one broom and the next are virtually indistinguishable, but it’s nice to have something extra to tinker with as you work your way through the short campaign.
Broom Racing VR at least manages not to make you sick, thanks to being well-optimised and not too wild on the VR racing front. There’s a constant leyline that runs beneath the course, so there’s always a physical path for you to latch onto, as well as the steady flow of gates, both of which help to keep you, and your brain, grounded.
Unfortunately, that’s all there is to it. Anyone hoping to re-enact scenes from the anime, or a cheeky cartoon Harry Potter homage, will find that these brooms are resolutely stuck in more-or-less one place, and you can forget any hopes of simply flying off to check out the top of Luna Nova’s impressive tower.