Developer / Publisher – Retrowave VR / Kluge Interactive
Price – US $9.99 / EU €8.19 / UK £7.19
Release Date – July 12th, 2018
Input – Tracked Motion Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing
Store – Steam
Reviewed on – Oculus Rift
Nearly every VR user nowadays is well aware what Beat Saber is and after the huge success on steam, many small developers have created similar games, trying to surf the wave of rhythm-based VR games. Synth Riders is one of them, where instead of using two sabers to slice some cubes, you move two spheres to hit some other spheres.
At first sight the game looks beautiful. The retro wave style is really well implemented in the game, and you can already feel it from the opening moments in the game’s menu and song loading. Lots of very well studied smaller details give Synth Riders a professional touch. The scenery while playing is really pleasing and nice to be in with neon, retro 80’s art design. Even the songs perfectly match the graphical art style of the game, so if you like the Tron-esque setting, you will probably enjoy the music as well.
But as soon as I started playing it didn’t take me long to realize that the actual gameplay is pretty boring. Compared to beat saber where you need to slice the cubes in the direction that is shown, this game requires you to just place your hand in the right position and wait for the spheres to hit the controller and this limits a lot your actual movements. Normally the notes are blue, and you can hit those with any hand, sometimes there are some purple sequences that will give you a bonus if you hit all of them with the same hand and sometimes the sequence will be orange and will require you to hit the spheres with both hands at the same time. After missing the initial notes i got used to the game pretty easily and started realizing a couple of problems. Sometimes some notes are not in sync with the music…not completely off beat but some small delays or anticipation of the notes were really annoying during my playthrough.
At the end of my first song I wanted to give the song another try on a harder difficulty but I realized that the game gives you every song with only one difficulty level, and each song is tagged as easy, hard or expert. Because the easy song was fine I decided to go straight to expert. I was expecting an instant fail on that level, but I managed to finish it with a pretty positive score and precision (around 90% of the notes). I’m not new to rhythm games but being able to finish the hardest song of the game after 4 minutes of game time feels a little bit weird to me.
Other than being a little bit faster and having more notes the song was not really that different (from a gameplay point of view), the pattern and positioning of the hands was quite similar to the first song and even to the other track that I played after. Also, the game gives only seven songs in the current version, and without a difficulty selection allows you to play everything in about half an hour.
On steam the game has some basic achievements but some of those are also broken, I’ve played every track and the achievements that you can unlock by playing 3 or 5 tracks are still locked.
In the end I can say that if you really are in love with the retrowave/cyberpunk style it is a nice experience to try, but the majority of the people are going to be bored after a really short amount of time. At least for me the game was running smoothly without any lag or crashes.
What would I pay? For the current state of the game I would give it only 1 euro. With more songs with more original patterns, with every sphere on beat and with a difficulty selection the current price could be the right one.
Kluge Interactive provided The VR Grid with a code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!