Beat Saber by Beat Games
Editor’s Note: If you haven’t yet ventured into the realms of virtual reality, or perhaps if you have been vacationing away from the planet in 2018, then you may have not yet heard of indie VR wunderkind Beat Saber. Some may say it saved the VR game world in what was otherwise considered a trough year for the emerging immersive tech industry. We felt we needed to give some love to over here at IGR (as opposed to our sister site OculusGameReviewer.com, where we celebrate the efforts of indie developers around the world, including Czech studio Beat Games who made one of the breakout hits of the year and maybe one of VR’s most successful ever. This review by Callabrantus is of the PSVR version.
Take on your fiercest battle stance in a tunnel full of neon explosions and a bass-heavy soundtrack. Red and blue tiles hurtle towards you, and each swing of your saber must connect with its target to the infectious beat. Beat Saber takes the natural feel of slashing objects found in games like Fruit Ninja VR and combines it with the fast-paced but measured challenge of a rhythm game. So unleash your inner ninja, and embrace the Baryshnikov you’ve always yearned to be.
For the majority of the challenges, your left saber is for slicing red blocks, and the right one slices blue. Hacking through the blocks destroys them, awarding points and increasing a score combo multiplier. Blocks with a circle indicate that they can be slashed from any direction, while ones depicting a arrow demand to be swiped along the indicated direction. Generally, making it through a level without missing a bunch of targets is the goal of each stage.
The early levels start gently enough, with a gradual progression in difficulty as stages are conquered. The learning curve then spikes as stage-specific objectives and limitations are applied. Songs cleared earlier will be revisited, but the tempo will increase, and there will be more notes to clear. There are sometimes restrictions on the amount of beats that can be missed before failing.
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If mention of those innovations don’t faze, there are also disappearing arrow stages, where the allowed direction appears briefly on a block and then quickly fades. Keeping your strike path on the straight and narrow demands being cognizant of the swipe direction of the next few blocks while being simultaneously mindful of the direction of the current attack.
My personal favorite stages keep track of the amount of distance covered when moving the sabers. Here, it isn’t enough to simply dispatch the charge of neon cubes; you also have to move your arms as much as possible to cover the distance condition. The feeling of really following through with each slice while flamboyantly winding up for the next pass is as invigorating as it can be draining. Conversely, some stages will only allow a maximum distance. After swinging wildly to reach a maximum distance, employing enough restraint to stay under 150 meters of movement can be really daunting.
The PSVR version lacks a few bells and whistles compared to the Steam version. There are no custom tracks to be found, and though the individual stages progressively ramp up the skill requirements, it doesn’t take long to encounter a track you’ve already played. Beat Games has stated that a new track pack is in the works, with PSVR slated as the first platform it will arrive on. If this pack proves popular, PSVR players can hope for the occasional influx of new beat-riddled challenges.
Rhythm Is Gonna Get You
I’ve always enjoyed rhythm games because of the connection to the music that drives them. I lost myself in the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises, and Beat Saber improves on what enthralled me about them. The act of swinging sabers to hammer out the beats is so much more personal than simply pressing a well-timed button. Considering the additional mechanic of physically dodging to get out of the way of barriers and mines, this music-based experience demands a full-body commitment. I found that dancing my way from one swipe to the next was just a natural progression, so I willfully gave in to it.
Beat Saber is easily a new favorite VR game of mine. As crushing (and physically exhausting) as some of the later levels are, I find myself compelled to dive back in and take another swipe. I can’t state in bold enough terms how eagerly I am anticipating having more tracks to challenge. Beat Saber cuts deep, and it hurts so good.
Beat Saber for PSVR is available via the PlayStation Store.
Watch the official trailer for Beat Saber below: