I keep banging the drum about VR being the absolute best platform for rhythm games. We’ve had some truly transformative experiences over the years ranging from Rez Infinite, Thumper, Beat Saber and Pistol Whip, which have brought some of the best moments the VR market has to offer. This is not only due to the zen-like feeling of being transported to these wonderful worlds, but their accessible nature allowing anyone without any prior experience with VR (or video games in general for that matter) to have a truly fun time. But with a glut of quality options, it does make it harder for any newcomers in the space to stand out amongst its peers. Synth Riders is another rhythm game trying to do just that, and while it launched with small beginnings on PCVR and Oculus Quest platforms a couple of years ago, it has continuously added content and modes to become a truly compelling product in its own right. The game finally comes to PSVR this month packaging all of this new content to launch as a rhythm game that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the aforementioned classics on Sony’s virtual reality headset.
Are you ready to have a ball?
The pitch of Synth Riders is relatively simple, but that is part of the appeal. Using two PlayStation Move controllers, players control two coloured balls by waving their arms around the screen. Using these orbs, players must hit the incoming shapes flying at them on an on-rails path corresponding with the correct coloured orb on their hand. Again, very straight forward but it is this simplicity that makes the game so easy to pick up, and people from all ages and backgrounds can easily dive right in. The patterns and levels are backed mostly by energetic synth tracks (hence the name) in retro nostalgic-fueled levels making you feel like you’ve been warped back into the 80s (even if you were born after the 80s like I was).
Speaking of accessibility, Synth Riders has a lot of different modes that offer a different degree of challenge and difficulty and are tailored to people of all skills. There is Rhythm Mode for a more casual experience, while Force Mode truly makes you break a sweat. Each track has five difficulty levels which feel appropriately balanced as well as a whole suite of modifiers for those who want to customise their own challenge. This is all of course backed by a leaderboard system to add a competitive edge on things. One mode that encourages family play is called Party Mode, which allows players to pass the headset to other family and friends, and while I wasn’t able to explore this option to its full extent being stuck in lockdown, I am looking forward to the day I can invite my friends over for a couple of drinks and have some fun riding synths. We don’t drink and drive, but who said we couldn’t drink and synth ride? I was able to get my wife to give it a couple of spins, and as someone who hasn’t played a video game since the original Guitar Hero, she was able to pick up the controllers and play instantly, which really drives home the fact that anyone can join in on the fun. I’d like to also add she’s generally prone to motion sickness in vehicles and was able to do a couple rounds without feeling the slightest bit of nausea.
You’ll find me chasing the sun
While most of the tracks themselves are inspired by 80s sci-fi or action flicks, there are some other great offerings added to the mix for variety as well, which I understand was added after the original version of the game launched. There are over 55 songs available in the main game with over 20 additional tracks available as purchasable music packs. These music packs includes tunes from well-known bands such as The Offspring and Muse, which fit perfectly with the theme and style of the game. Honestly, most of the songs were extremely catchy and had me tapping my feet and humming to their melodies long after putting the headset down.
The various tracks are set within over a dozen different environments, each with their own unique identity. The futuristic city is my personal favourite and really doubles down on that retro atmosphere. However, while most provide a nice transportation outside of being stuck in a pandemic lockdown, some levels leave a little to be desired. The better stages swing you through epic ever-changing sci-fi landscapes, however others are rather static and lack dynamism.
Synth Riders isn’t going to set the world on fire for being novel or daring, but what it does do it does as well as any other VR rhythm game on the market. I think what helps it stand out from the crowd is its focus on accessibility, customisability and the diverse amount of levels, tracks and modes to keep you from getting sick of the same thing over and over again. The tunes are catchy as hell, the levels feel nostalgic and there’s plenty of options to challenge you further to obtain higher scores or have a workout. If you’re tired of swinging light sabers or playing the five or so levels of Rez Infinite repeatedly and looking for a change of pace, I highly recommend checking Synth Riders out. Moreover, if you’re looking for a rhythm game that encourages the whole family to get involved, I think Synth Riders is probably the best choice out of all the rhythm games or VR games in general. It would be a sin(th) not to give it a go.
Reviewed on PSVR using a PS5 and an AIM Controller // Review code supplied by publisher
- Kluge Interactive, Retrowave VR
- Kluge Interactive
- August 10, 2021