Some game genres are more suited to VR than others, and the music rhythm genre is one of them.
From the rhythm-violence of Thumper to the thrilling lightsaber action of Beat Saber, there’s plenty of them out there. One of the best, though, has to be Synth Riders, which is now available on PSVR 2. If you’re a fan of synth music and want to work up a sweat to some damn good tunes, you don’t want to miss this one.
In Synth Riders, you’ll dance along to the rhythm of a song, hitting glowing orbs as they get close to you. Blue notes you’ll hit with your left hand, and pink notes with your right. If the notes are yellow, you’ll need to bring both hands close together and move them in sync. For green notes, you can choose either hand – but you’ll have to stick with your choice. Some notes are single; others are attached to a rail that you’ll need to follow steadily with your hand. Add in obstacles to dodge and a fast-paced electro beat that you can’t help but dance along to, and you have quite the workout.
Getting lost in one of Synth Riders’ tracks is an incredibly engaging experience, and honestly, we can’t get enough of it. Each track can be played on a range of difficulties – from easy all the way up to extremely difficult (for the truly masochistic) – and there’s a range of modifiers available to tailor the experience to your needs. You can make the orbs larger if you wish, making notes easier to hit. Or make them smaller for a greater challenge (and bigger score bonus). You can also disable obstacles if you’d rather not have to duck and dive. It’s worth playing around with the settings to find the balance that works for you.
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Synth Riders’ greatest appeal is as a single-player game: simply getting lost in a track is rewarding enough, but there are leaderboards to chase high score glory if you wish. There’s also a multiplayer mode which lets you create lobbies to directly battle it out against friends or strangers. It seemed pretty sparse when we tried to join, however, so don’t count on having too many live competitions. It hardly matters: it’s simply an addition to the core gameplay mode, which is all about you and the music.
As good as Synth Riders‘ standard experience is, it’s lifted to an entirely new level when you play an ‘Experience’ song. These special tracks have custom visuals to go along with them, transporting you to a new realm altogether. Pick up the base game and you have access to just one, and that’s Lindsey Stirling’s Underground. Her electro violin is perfectly paired to a stunning visual display that sends you flying through valleys, jolting through abstract shapes and immersing you in the music in a way we’ve never experienced. It’s truly transcendental; even when we were missing notes, we had a huge grin on our face as we ducked, weaved and glided through the level. It’s just a shame that there are only a handful of ‘Experience’ levels, and all the rest of them are tied to DLC.
That’s perhaps what disappoints us most about Synth Riders, actually: most of its best music is locked out as DLC. Considering that the game’s visuals feel like an extension of Muse’s Simulation Theory album, it’s criminal that the handful of Muse songs available in the game are DLC only. There are plenty of songs available in the base game, granted – over 50 – but unless you’re a huge fan of synth, chances are you won’t know many of the tracks. Part of getting deeply immersed in a rhythm game is when you’re playing along to a song you know and love, and here you’re unlikely to be able to do that without spending a bit of extra money.
But it’s hardly a huge negative. The base game is priced reasonably enough that adding on a handful of songs is not going to break the bank. And the songs included in Synth Riders as standard are perfectly-suited to the game and its action. Even if you don’t know them, you’ll quickly get transfixed to the beat, moving your body from side-to-side as you hit those glowing orbs whizzing towards you.
We can’t get enough of Synth Riders, and we’ll certainly be jumping back into it time and time again – both as a bit of a workout, but also because it’s just so mesmerising. Its standard levels are immersive enough, but its Experience levels take things to a whole new level – perhaps one of the best things we’ve seen in PSVR 2 yet. It’s just a shame the majority of them are locked out as DLC. Still, this isn’t a game to sleep on if you’re a fan of pumping tunes and getting your groove on.