As you can read by the title, I’m trying something a little different. I’m not reviewing one or two but three VR rhythm-based titles that have been released within the past year. I’ll be comparing all three titles and see how they stack up against one another in terms of playability, style and overall mechanics to see which you should be in your libraries. Welcome to my 3-in-1 Rhythm Feature.
To begin with, I’ll be telling you the games that will appear in the feature review. The games are as follows, Beat Saber, Audica and PowerBeats VR. All these games are centred around a central theme, and that is they all play against music. Ever remember the Guitar Hero, dancing games and rhythm-style games of the past? You’d see them in the arcades, with people crowding around them whenever you’d see someone who was absolutely nailing it on every beat.
Well, I did. Watching them was something out of a tv show for me. No note was missed, and they did it in style. Jumping 360 degrees in the air and landing down on the dance mats for the dancing titles and fingers dancing across the fret-boards for Guitar Hero like they weren’t even there. I remember these days like they were yesterday.
But, thankfully, I can now get these feelings back with these titles. Well, maybe not the dancing ones as I’m just not that physically fit to keep up. Which brings me onto my my next point. Do you need to be fit to play these games? Short answer, no. They are catered for everyone to get them started with the basics and enjoy these titles no matter your skill/fitness levels. That’s what I love about these titles as they are genuinely fun to play, and all of them have tackled this rhythm gameplay in their own way. So, it only felt natural to put them all together in this feature and see how they stack up.
Released on the 1st May 2018, this title can be found on the PC (Steam/Oculus store) and PSVR platforms. The objective of this game is to hit incoming boxes that are synced up to the music you’ve selected. For me, this title is extremely fun to play. It’s a very simple premise: hit the boxes that are coming at you. Pretty simple right? Well, yes and no. The reason for this is because even though the premise is simple enough to get your head around, in practice it’s a different matter.
The songs you pick can entirely change depending on the difficulty you pick. Multipliers also have their own effects, such as slower songs, no wall obstructions, etc., etc. As I mentioned before, the game is catered for everyone and can be as slow or as fast as you want it to be, depending on your skill level.
The levels you play all have different methods to get you used to the gameplay by having different sections to spice things up; for example, crossing over the colours of the boxes to different sides of the screen. In doing this, it will challenge you to remember your hand-eye coordination skills. In doing so, you’ll begin to see how well these challenges develop as the more songs you play, the more challenges it will begin to show. Incoming walls will need to be dodged to be able to progress the song too. Get caught out in one of these, and you’ll soon see your points plummet into nothing. Bombs of sharp spikes will also come at you with other boxes, so your precision is key to be able to hit them without hitting the spike bombs.
Beat Saber with Friends
All this blended together makes for a very fun game, and when having friends over, it really does bring the life and soul to the party. After having hosted a recent gathering of my nearest and dearest, we all had a blast on this for many hours.
Watching people who have played this title for awhile to friends trying it out for the very first time is quite amusing. People have their own way of tackling many situations differently, and to be able to sit back and enjoy the good company whilst having this game on is a definite must for anyone who owns a VR headset.
No matter the skill level, Beat Saber is genuinely fun to play. What other title makes you feel like Darth Vader whilst smashing boxes of brightly coloured lights against some engaging music? Plus, being able to see your friends have a good time is nice.
Audica. How best to describe this game? If you want the short version of a comparison roundup, it’s like Beat Saber but with guns. But to say that Audica is a Beat Saber clone with guns is like saying strawberry ice cream is better than mint choc chip. Both have their merits, and this is where I’m going to explore them (the games, not the ice creams…though I am a fan of mint choc chip 🙂 ). Audica is a VR rhythm shooter title and was released for the PC on 7th March 2019. Boxes are replaced by circular targets like you find on a shooting range. But instead of coming at you from the centre, like in Beat Saber, these targets come at you from all over the place, requiring you to have to really look around for them.
Again, the difficulty changes the pace of this title, and it has a tutorial mode where you can come to grips with the game before you start. It shows you how to point the guns for the best aiming score and when to change the orientation of the guns to hit specific targets. Also, there other targets that require you hold the trigger for X amount of seconds to progress the song. What’s nice about this is because it is all timed so well with the music that when you miss a target, it can throw you off because the beat isn’t there. So being able to hit the targets is challenging but also rewarding in my eyes.
Another feature that is also nice to see is the accuracy roundup at the end of a song. This shows you how accurate you were throughout the duration and how you can improve for next time. This feature has made me want to practice more by taking on challenges on higher difficulties. Yes, it is harder to hit the targets, but with this freedom of movement in the play space it creates, there is more movement to be had, and it is more engaging making you reach for those targets from many different directions. There have been many instances where I got used to a certain mechanic, then out of nowhere a new challenge will appear, and seeing how it fits into the music always kept me on my toes.
This title is another must have for friends too. Being able to feel like John Wick is something special, just without all the violence, death, etc., etc.
Well, now for the last but certainly not least in the group for this 3-in-1 feature, we come onto PowerBeats VR. Playing this game is like if you went through all of the workout videos you’ve probably seen throughout the years. You know the ones where they have you exercising by working on different parts of the body in 20-40 minute sessions. Meld that with high octane music in an environment where smashing boxes with your hands is the objective, and you’ve got PowerBeats. This game takes no prisoners. It was been released on the 18th April 2019 for the PC and is available for the Steam, Oculus, Vive platforms.
To make things perfectly clear, yes, this game is catered for everyone. It has the difficulty settings you’ve seen in the other games I’ve mentioned. But, with this game the emphasis is on the fitness/workout factor. Your virtual hands will be doing all the talking. No fancy lightsabers, no guns. Just you and your fists (until later when you unlock hammers, but we’ll get to that). It has a few songs to try to get you used to the controls. The layout is intuitive with everything laid out before you: what stages to pick, what difficulty to choose and what stage to play it on. The addition of awesome environments is a nice touch. Visually gorgeous to look at, they stretch as far as the eyes can see, and they range from space levels to medieval castles and vast deserts.
Keeping Up with the Beats
However, don’t let these environments distract you from the oncoming debris. You’ll have to be nimble on your feet. Each obstacle is designed to push you and your body to your limit, if that’s what you want. For me, it’s a unique selling point. Being able to play a fun game whilst burning calories is a win-win. It doesn’t make you feel like it’s a workout but something you enjoy. To put it simply, my other half has said I look like a gazelle jumping around the VR space in my front living room. It gets the heart pumping, and once you start, there’s no stopping you. Each obstacle is satisfying to hit, and when you don’t hit them hard enough, you’ll hear a voice telling you to hit harder.
That coupled with the oncoming walls and spike traps to avoid is what will get you moving. When I say it will get you moving, I mean moving. Not just swaying from side to side but physically jumping from side to side in hopes of dodging the many barriers. Crouching on the floor in time to avoid overhead obstacles is a challenge I looked forward to. When you get more points, these will unlock new weapons and abilities, like a shield to block incoming attacks, dual-wielding hammers to hit blocks harder and timeouts where you can have a small respite in songs to give you a much needed breather.
Also, when watching others play, there are settings in which you can see a virtual avatar on the screen reflecting every movement you make. It’s a little jancky but definitely fun to watch. Though it can be taxing on some systems if you haven’t the horsepower to run it properly.
For all three of these titles, they all have a firm grasp on the rhythm music aspect. They all share the oncoming targets as a medium for which you interact with.
If you want to get fit and not feel like you are taking part in a fitness video, I would suggest PowerBeats VR as it has the rhythm and moveability that fits with that genre without feeling like you are burning the calories.
If you are after feeling like a Jedi or even a medieval/futuristic sword practitioner to songs that you can sing along to with a bit more freedom in your player choices, then I would suggest Beat Saber.
And finally, if you are after something that requires a little bit more coordination, something that makes you feel like you should be fighting a hoard of aliens or something, or just general shooting practice for when you are playing the many shooting VR games out there, I would suggest Audica.
The point I am trying to make is that they all have their own take on what makes this style of gameplay fun and unique and offer their versions of challenges to players.
For me, all three games are fun to play for their unique takes on this genre, and I’ll be having these titles in my rotation at all times when friends/family come over to have a play. In the last rotation, it even caused an argument over which game was the best.
There is something here for everyone, and if you feel as though you would like to try these games out, I would highly recommend all three of them. I would say, however, to make sure you have a decent sized floor space as most of these games benefit from a larger play area, though it is not necessary if that’s not an option as they do cater for smaller play areas too. The developers really have thought of everything.