Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Synth Riders has been out on PC for some time, but it finally brings its entertaining blend of virtual reality and music to the PlayStation VR. The end result? One of the best PSVR titles to date that fans of rhythm games owe it to themselves to play.
The comparisons to the super popular Beat Saber are obvious, though they have a different kind of style to their musical rhythm action. The basic gameplay has that easy-to-learn quality that makes Synth Riders a quick game to get into. You play this with your Move controllers that become your hands in this VR world. Notes dart across the screen, and your job is to try and hit them with the correct hand in time to the music. As easy as that sounds, a flawless run is difficult to come by given just how fast the beat notes can come flying at you. There’s some additional nuance in there as well, where your hands have to sometimes be close together or chaining special orbs along the way.
In terms of the presentation, it’s a wonderful combination of neon-soaked visuals and synth music that reminds me of the 80’s in the best possible way (but well – I grew up in the 80’s, so I’ll take it). With something like a virtual reality headset, there’s obviously a ton of focus on the immersion aspect, and Synth Riders nails this. It’s not tricking you into some photo-realistic fantasy world or the like, but the sights and sounds are incredibly encompassing and I found the first hour or two had flown by without me really being aware.
It helps that the game comes with a handful of different modes and a pretty deep and excellent list of songs. The library of music certainly helps to keep things fresh regardless of the mode you play, and I frequently found myself repeating the same songs a few times. This was often just because I dug the tune, but also because Synth Riders has that excellent ‘one more try, we’ll do it better this time’ kind of quality to it. Rhythm mode feels like the most accessible, while Force Mode is meant to ramp things up and increase the overall challenge. Both have elements of timing as the core mechanic, but Force has you ‘hitting the notes’ harder to add an extra element of effort and difficulty.
There’s also a Spin mode with a wrinkle towards turning from side to side, and involves a bit more of your body into the mix. There are also difficulty modifiers you can apply, so it’s as relaxing or challenging as you like. There is also a party mode that was a fun way to hand things off to others in the house, though adjusting the headset for a different person each time is a bit less wieldy than just passing a controller over when you’re both sitting on a couch. Also, I tend to sweat a lot and that’s probably not ideal for the next person in line either. One thing that felt missing in a lockdown / pandemic world is the lack of online multiplayer.
Speaking of the library, it’s worth noting that while there’s a few dozen or so tracks that the game ships with, Synth Riders does have some music packs (like so many of the other rhythm games out there do) with more notable (at least to me) brands such as Muse or The Offspring. Most of what comes with the standard list is really good, and obviously preference is subjective, but naturally not all of the songs were hits for me. Whether it was their pacing or just their overall vibe, they didn’t all stick the landing personally – but most of them were really solid.
Synth Riders is an excellent rhythm game, with a strong selection of songs and fantastic visuals that really drew me into the experience. The variety of modes and difficulty customizations make this the kind of game that is easy for people to pick up and play, but also provides a gameplay loop that keeps you coming back for improved performances. The lack of online multiplayer is one of the few bummers here, but the overall package is too good to pass up on.Score: 8.5 / 10