Rhythm games and virtual reality are a match made in heaven, so it was only a matter of time before Harmonix showed up on the scene looking to dominate this emerging subgenre. Doing away with bespoke plastic peripherals, the legendary creators of Guitar Hero and Rock Band instead hand you a pair of VR pistols as you go up against Audica’s musical gauntlet.
Each level lasts roughly two to three minutes depending on the song, rooting players to the spot as they’re bombarded with a series of targets. These will appear in time with the music, their arrangement becoming more complex and challenging as you blast your way through the four difficulty settings.
While your bog standard targets can be dispensed of with the simple shot, others will need you to hold the trigger on your PlayStation Move controllers, tilt them to the side, or trace a specific pattern. Those tougher stages will throw up a rhythmic mishmash of these targets, spacing them further apart and dialling up the tempo to keep Audica players on their toes.
The jump to PlayStation VR hasn’t resulted in any major technical compromises, though there were a few niggling issues that cropped up when playing for prolonged periods of time. There were a handful of scenarios in which both the headset and Move controllers would gradually drift out of position. It’s easy to remedy, but still a bit annoying to reset.
With this being Harmonix, there’s a great selection of songs for gunslingers to get their groove on. Audica’s soundtrack features several shades of house music alongside drum and bass picks with a couple of fun outliers like DragonForce’s Highway to Oblivion. Needless to say, for the full experience you will want to whack on a pair of decent headphones.
As with Guitar Hero and Rock Band, the actions you perform sync up with each song, though this is greatly enhanced thanks to the power of PlayStation VR and needing to play the game with full motion. Much like Beat Saber, mastering a track on its toughest difficulty can lead to quite the adrenaline rush. What, you didn’t think we had forgotten the neon coloured elephant in the room, did you?
In many ways Beat Saber has spoiled us, offering a more physical, entrancing take on the genre where Audica is limited by its shooting range design. Firing at targets instead of viscerally cleaving them apart won’t give you that same buzz. Instead, Audica relies on the complexity of its stages to generate replay value. You’ll need at least several passes at a song before you’ll find that groove and can try to get your name on the scoreboard.
There’s a learning curve here that’s made harsher by other factors. Audica’s backdrops are sometimes a little too busy and we occasionally had issues with reading target sequences, even after several hours of play. On intermediate difficulty, timing your shots can be pretty hard and it often felt like we were relying more on the visual prompts rather than the music itself.
Beyond mastering your favourite songs, Audica can be experienced in group play and you can even have a go at creating your own stages using a simple set of tools. There’s a campaign in there too, guiding you through the game’s set list with some modifiers (target colour/size changes) and side missions to help spice things up.