Volleyball, though an Olympics sport, and increasing in popularity over the years especially in a powerful economic region like Asia, have yet to find success as a digital game. We’ve seen a desktop version, called International Volleyball, but in a smartphone-era I doubt anyone would bring a controller and a bulky desktop along with them.
So it was nice to find out a mobile app called Spike Masters, available for both Android devices and iOS-powered gadgets. This is perhaps the closest mobile app, and even closest game after International Volleyball, to properly simulate real-life indoor volleyball. Beach volley games have always been a hit in arcades, but the complexity of indoor volleyball may have discouraged many developers from investing on such a program.
Spike Masters, however, is a fun and realistic volleyball experience.
One of the best things about Spike Masters is that you have great control in terms of offensive options, and essentially you’re almost playing the setter role of the team. Gameplay is easy to master, as all you need is choose the player to attack through touch, and also choose the direction of your attack, also through touch. Unlike International Volleyball which has several camera angles, Spikes Masters only allows you a top view of the game. However, this does wonders to the mobile app because you see how strategic volleyball formations are formed, and allows the players to orchestrate offensive and defensive plays.
Like a real indoor volleyball game, you have your setter and string of attackers. Spike Masters allows you to choose out of eight teams, all with varying degrees of player height and skill. Practice is simple and court hints allow you to grasp how to attack and defend more efficiently. Skills like reception, blocking, and serving come in a variety too – from perfect receptions to shanks, huge blocks down the middle to roofs on the wings, and simple float serves and torpedo –like jump serves.
You get to choose between two kinds of court for your game too. Other settings which can be customized include number of sets to player, number of scores to win a set, and additional graphics to show audience. Spear Consulting Duo, the developers of Spike Masters, analyzed the games of real players to make the app as realistic as possible.
There is much room for improvement with this mobile app. As of now, there is still no proper libero role for the game, a crucial component of modern, international volleyball competitions. The strength of an attack is not fully in your control, and blocks are only up to a two-man maximum or a middle blocker defending against an opponent’s quick hit. Players are also stuck into their roles, and you can’t exactly move them in and around the court, which is essential for more realistic floor defense. There are also no substitutions allowed, and you’re basically stuck with only six players. Serve power can also be quite arbitrary or dependent on the location you choose on the opponent’s courtside.
While there is a tournament game play, it’s only a double-round league. It would be better if a quarterfinal, semi-final, and championship bracket is also added. Just the same, the exclusion of a popular volleyball nations like Brazil and China is a bit of a downer (Spike Master’s is only limited to a men’s version).
Lastly, a great addition would be to include match statistics. The last update from the developers pointed out they are working on the addition of the libero as well as the inclusion of game statistics. New teams are also being planned. So far, the updates have not yet been implemented, especially as additional statistics will require extraordinary server power from the developer’s end.
All in all, Spike Master’s is a good enough game for volleyball fanatics. Although not yet fully refined, it’s a fascinating and at time exciting game that implements the complex team sport’s many facets. Casual gamers may not fully appreciate the offensive and defensive strategies exemplified in Spike Master’s, but for those who want better insight on volleyball rotations and formations while having fun, Spike Master’s is for you.