Over the years Harmonix have made interacting with music their forte, bringing a wide range of titles that have allowed us to become rock stars, dance to the latest banging beats, or even shoot music notes to keep a song playing. They’ve constantly delivered experiences that are fun and groundbreaking, keeping players entertained whilst interacting with their favourite songs in different ways.
With Harmonix Music VR they’ve offered yet another unique experience, though this time you don’t necessarily interact with music but rather immerse yourself in it. As someone who listens to a lot of music, Harmonix Music VR really appealed to me – it’s just a shame that not everything in the game is all that enjoyable…
The most important aspect of any music video game is the soundtrack on offer, and whilst Harmonix Music VR’s tunes certainly aren’t bad (in fact some of the electronica beats are pretty good) you’ll be glad to know you can put together playlists made up of your own music collection. You simply put a USB stick with your songs on into your Playstation 4 and the game does the rest. I enjoyed listening to a mixture of NOFX, Chvrches, Fleetwood Mac, and even a bit of Frank Sinatra as I played around with the game’s interactive experiences. It offered something that wouldn’t have felt the same with just the game’s standalone soundtrack – it’s certainly an experience that demands a personal touch. It was a little disappointing that I wasn’t able to use the Playstation’s Spotify implementation though, especially since I use it as my main source of music.
Harmonix Music VR is split up into four different experiences that allow you to relax and interact with music in different ways: ‘The Beach’, ‘The Trip’, ‘The Easel’, and ‘The Dance’. Each experience plays out completely differently – some allow the player to interact with the music around them whilst others simply let you take it all in without having to play around.
‘The Beach’ places you on a series of small, isolated islands that have a view of the ocean and the skyline in the distance, the beats of the music being played across the sky in the form of a visualiser. You can then switch between islands and interact with certain objects in the environment by simply staring at a specific point with the headset. Whilst the experience looked pretty enough, it didn’t offer enough to keep me engaged for the long-term. I saw everything it had to offer within the space of a couple of tracks and whilst the environment was relaxing, it didn’t really scream out to me as something worth coming back to.
I felt the same about ‘The Trip’ which plays out as a giant kaleidoscope-like visualiser that shows all sorts of shapes and colours around you that shift with the beat of the music. It’s the sort of thing we’ve seen on plenty of media players over the years, except now you get to experience it in virtual reality. It’s trippy and pretty cool, though it doesn’t do anything that’ll keep you hooked in for the long-term. You’re just looking at colours blast past you with a headset attached to your face – something which isn’t always necessarily incredibly comfortable over long periods of simply staring and doing nothing.
‘The Easel’ on the other hand is my favourite mode on offer; in fact I’d even go as far as saying that this mode alone justifies the purchase of Harmonix Music VR. After playing around with ‘Tilt Brush’ on the HTC Vive, I’ve craved a similar experience on the Playstation VR. ‘The Easel’ provides that experience with players able to draw directly in front of them using the move controllers with the game offering plenty of neat brushes that all interact with the music in some form. There’s something tantalising about your creations moving with the beat of the music and whilst you’re not given the tools to create masterpieces, the freedom to make wacky creations and then walk through and around them in a 3D environment was fantastic. It may not appeal to everyone, but I’ve found myself returning to ‘The Easel’ time and time again to scratch a creative itch whilst listening to my favourite songs.
Lastly there’s ‘The Dance’, one of the more interactive game modes on offer but one that won’t keep you engaged for too long. You’re able to manipulate a group of monster puppets and set up dance routines for them, creating a little dance troupe that’ll bust some moves to your favourite beats. You can then hit the DJ deck and modify the music, as well as blowing an air horn and blasting objects around the environment. It’s fun to toy around with for awhile, but it’s not something that kept me interested for long. It’s more like a tech demo – I found myself much more interested in playing around with ‘The Easel’ instead.
Harmonix Music VR is available for just under £12 (or your local equivalent), which isn’t too bad a price but one that some gamers might find too steep considering the bulk of the content won’t keep then engaged for long. Whilst I’ll admit there isn’t a whole lot of substance to the package, I think ‘The Easel’ alone makes the entry fee worthwhile, especially since there isn’t any other Playstation VR title available right now that offers a similar experience. Other players may think differently though so it depends on what you want from the game.
My feelings on Harmonix Music VR are a little mixed. There are four experiences on offer and whilst they’re all interesting to check out, only one really kept me engaged for the long term. That one experience is actually something I’d recommend all virtual reality fans check out though – drawing these simple creations and then walking through and around them was one of the most fun things I’ve done in VR.
Still, the lack of longevity and interactivity with the other experiences make it a little difficult to fully recommend Harmonx Music VR, even if I love ‘The Easel’. If you’re interested in letting out your creative side whilst listening to music then I’d recommend giving the game a purchase, otherwise you might want to give this one a miss.
Developer: Harmonix Music Systems
Publisher: Harmonix Music Systems
Release Date: 13/10/2016
Format(s): Playstation VR (Reviewed)