Ever feel like you wanted to dance, randomly and without prompts? The kind of jig where you let the song in your head take over, you’re on your own, and you have a little dance while lost in your thoughts? Take that feeling, and condense it into a VR experience where you boogy your way to a high score. Synth Riders is one of the best VR games of the year.
Like Beat Saber, only groovy
Created by Kluge Interactive, Synth Riders is a VR rhythm game where the player swipes, bobs, and taps to victory as they collect points along music tracks.
The game is similar to Beat Saber, a classic in the VR ecosystem. Players hit the balls as they fly towards them, swiping and hitting them to earn the high score. The heavy dance music blasts in the audio, moving players to move and enjoy themselves.
The game it Early Access in June 2019, with a lot of praise poured onto it from the community. Now it is out, with some new perks. The game comes with 30 songs, four difficulty levels, and seven selectable environments to beat through. A fair amount of content which will take the user a while to roll through, especially with the Master difficulty level.
Synth Riders and dancing to a sweat
When I first put on the headset, I was greeted with a ghostly image of the game world as it loaded, then plopped onto a vibrant neon landscape to select my options. The team designed the layout to fit the mood of the game. Bright blues and pinks intermix to make a landscape straight out of a CD from the 70s or 80s.
There were a few songs to pick and choose as well, split into several volumes and themes. Each gave a short clip of the music, and music bars appeared to jump back and forth with the beat. It felt like flicking through a vinyl switcher, testing short clips before jumping in. There was also a small lag between selecting a song and hearing the clip, which could be sped up.
Once selected, the song dropped the player into one of the seven environments on offer. The one I personally selected was the dark line heading to a malevolent building, the skies dark and spooky.
Silence. Then balls appear in the horizon. Synth Riders starts.
Swish and flick gameplay
Every tap of the ball gave the controller a satisfying shudder, almost as if the controller itself was enjoying the experience. It also felt nice to have the haptic feedback of hitting the ball.
They came flying through, encouraging hands to stretch far or swerve. The hand movements encouraged creativity. I could have just tapped on each passively, or I could dance with the music as I do. The dancing made the game slightly more difficult, but it was much more enjoyable than being robotic and tapping to and fro.
On Easy mode, the game was… incredibly easy. It may be because I came off the back of Beat Saber, but I had a perfect score on the first go.
But then I ramped up the settings to Hard, which provided a satisfying and fun challenge. The notes poured from the distance like a waterfall, with some hands switched and some needing one hand to be used. Taken together at full speed, and it was a blast to keep up.
And Master mode? I was completely demolished. The waterfall became a torrent, and I drowned in the notes after a few seconds. Practice makes perfect.
Why it works so well in VR
Synth Riders is a perfect fit for VR. Immersed in the gameplay and ready to swipe some notes, it offers the same experience as other rhythm games of the same nature.
The difference this time is the capacity to dance. The immersion and game design gives the flexibility to dance along to songs, which some may be compelled to do. And it feels great too. That feeling of satisfaction was present throughout the game, and its the VR that helps.
Are rhythm-based games a natural fit for VR? The evidence is clear on the point. But whether it can be innovated further would be interesting to see.
Synth Riders is satisfying and fun
Synth Riders is one of the best games this year. As a lover of VR, the game uses the technology in such a fun and joyous way that it is great to show friends and family. Similar to Beat Saber but with its own flavour, Synth Riders dances its way to the top of my games in 2019.
The game works for anyone at any age. Collaborated for height, the game is a blast to play, and fun to watch.
Gear up, and get ready to move.
Synth Riders is available now on the Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift, Steam, and Viveport.