1Beat Saber (PC, PlayStation VR)
If you spend any amount of time watching video game Youtubers, you have likely encountered at least a couple (if not hundreds) of videos featuring players of all skill levels tackling the next weird and wonderful custom map. And why wouldn’t anyone want to play it? It combines catchy music with light sabers!
First released as an early access game in November 2018, Beat Saber receives arguably some of the most active development out of any VR Rhythm game and has a large community of enthusiasts behind it. The premise behind the game is simple, blocks come towards you in time with the music, and you must slash each of the blocks with your sabers in the direction indicated while dodging the occasional threat. It can be very disorienting to do at first, and I would strongly recommend clearing out any trip (or people) hazards before you begin playing. But it is incredibly satisfying to progressively get the knack of things, gradually increasing your skill level and tackling songs you might have previously thought impossible.
What is good about Beat Saber is its wider availability on platforms. Although I would strongly recommend a PC version if at all possible due to the active custom map development community, you can also grab a copy on the PlayStation Store for the PlayStation 4 which has no mod support. Regardless of which option you go for, however, you are in for a rewarding experience.
SoundArt is the new game on the block, developed by MercuryStudio and published by PLAYISM only last month. Staying true to its title, this is a more artistic rhythm game to others on the list, with its own claim as a “VR personification of sensory overload” being apt.
SoundArt will see you faced with blocks which hurtle to you in time with the music. Rather than slashing blacks with your controllers, you drum along (or perhaps, conduct) with the beat on the flower in front of you. It is an exciting concept which is very pretty, but given the distractions, I would argue its aesthetic appeal can lead to you quickly losing attention.
There are a few nice features in SoundArt which lower its barrier to entry. First of all is that you can load up any sound file of your choosing (MP3, WAV, OGG or AIFF) and have the game generate the score for you to play with. The quality of these auto-generated tracks are mixed as one would expect, but was a nice added touch rather than waiting for the community to build a score. The support for VRM avatars out of the box was also a nice addition, giving you an additional layer of customisation if you want it.
While Beat Saber is probably the tired and proven rhythm game for virtual reality gaming, definitely keep an eye on SoundArt over the coming months.
3Space Channel 5 VR (PlayStation VR)
Space Channel 5 originated as a rhythm game on the Sega Dreamcast, in a short but very addictive musical experience where you stepped into the shoes of journalist Ulala who reported on cases while dancing. It featured an unconventional narrative and a lot of absurdist elements. But it was a joy to play – especially the second game in the series which featured a much longer & creative storyline and a playable appearance by Michael Jackson in what was his final video game appearance.
Marking the game’s 20th Anniversary, SEGA enlisted the development team at Grouding Inc. to develop a new game in the series after more than a decade and several console generations off the market. This came in the form of Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash!, which takes the iconic gameplay mechanics and adds virtual reality to them.
This is a faithful instalment to the series, with controls of the original games translating well into the virtual reality space. Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash! is split out over four chapters/stages, which progressively gets more challenging as you work through it. Some of its challenges are sadly due to the vagueness of the tutorial, but it was nevertheless enjoyable exploring each new move as its thrown at you.
Although the English voice cast had to be recast, Cherami Leigh shines as the new voice of Ulala.
The main issue with this long-awaited sequel is that it just isn’t good value for money. You can easily complete the story in under an hour and the other game modes in just as long, so its regular price of $67.95 AUD is far too high. If you wait around for a sale bringing it down to half that price or less, then an argument could be made for a purchase, since this is otherwise an entertaining virtual reality rhythm game.
All this in mind, I hope this is not the end of the Space Channel series. I can see this as more a paid, playable tech demo a couple of years before a major release. Least this Space Channel 5 cadet thinks so!
4Deemo -Reborn- (PlayStation VR)
Many VR rhythm games are only friendly to players when they can stand up and move around. But what if you risk crashing into a table or tripping over a chair while your headset is on? Deemo -Reborn- is one of the games I cannot recommend highly enough if you have a PlayStation VR unit.
Adapting the gameplay of Rayark Games’ original smartphone game, those with a PlayStation VR headset can enjoy the full Deemo experience in virtual reality. Not only do you get to explore the mysterious castle with a 360-degree view for the first time, but can also simulate playing the piano in first-person by moving your controllers in time with the music. While it might not have the full Deemo tracklist with hundreds of songs, each of the dozens of tracks offer timings developed specifically for VR-Mode.
You may not get fit by playing Deemo -Reborn-, but it certainly is a sometimes thrilling, sometimes cathartic experience. You can read my full review of the game HERE.