PlayStation VR was always going to be a place where experimental titles were featured as heavily as more traditional games, and Harmonix Music VR is about as experimental as it gets. A collection of four music-themed “experiences” are provided in the package for the asking price of $14.99, complete with a 17-song soundtrack comprising of songs from Amplitude, A City Sleeps, and an album created by Harmonix’s M-Cue exclusively for the game. If this hit-and-miss selection of beats isn’t enough for you, there’s always the option of throwing some of your favourite MP3s onto a USB stick and importing them for use in the game. The chances are that you probably won’t bother, though.
The reason you won’t be enticed to go that far with this collection is that the experiences on offer are so shallow and short that they don’t merit repeated plays. Looking at them one by one, The Beach is the starting point and is described as an “introductory experience.” Music plays in the background as you look around an alien-like beach, staring at highlight points in order to trigger reactions. Stare at the sun and the lighting will change. Look at a flower and it’ll turn into a trippy, rainbow-colored full screen painting. Some of the selectable areas will allow you to move to different locations on the beach (all three – yes, three – of which look incredibly similar), and you can also stare at a jellyfish for a bit if you’d like. OK.
The Trip is up next, and this one advises you to sit down and chill out as you listen to whichever track you’ve chosen. It’s not an exaggeration to say that The Trip is a kaleidoscopic-style music visualizer, which is a little more detailed than the one that comes built in to Windows Media Player for free. There’s absolutely no interactivity here. You just sit and watch as the colors take you away to a higher plane of existence, or something. But it’s in VR, so that’s apparently supposed to make it a worthy inclusion that blows your mind.
The Dance is more interactive, putting you in charge of a room of puppets, which can be manipulated to dance. Using your Move controllers, you point to select a dancer, then wave the controller around for a while until you’ve completed an entire dance loop, which the puppet then continues to perform as you move on to do the same with the other members of the group. A piece of cake can be picked up which when eaten, changes your position so that you’re stood behind the DJ console.
From here, you can scratch the record, play a party horn, fire random objects at the dancers from a cannon (which they don’t respond to), or change the speed of the song. Eat the cake again and you’re taken into “Giant Mode” which allows you to pick up and move the characters around the set, which you could do from the default position anyway.
But the best of this quadruplet has to be The Easel. This is an interactive space that allows you to use your Move controllers to draw and paint in a 3D space. One controller operates a palette of drawing tools to use. After selecting one, you then use your other controller to paint and draw in the air. If things get too crowded, you can “grab” your creation and push it off into space or throw it behind you to give yourself a little bit more space to work with.
Lines, objects, and loopers are available to use, with the latter allowing you to do cool things such as writing words in the air and watching the light follow your lines over and over again. The tools on offer aren’t particularly detailed enough to allow you to create anything other than finger paintings, so this means that you’ll probably be done with it by the time the first track is over.
As mentioned, that feeling crops up with all four of the experiences here. The first time you jump into any of the scenes, you’ll undoubtedly feel that you’re looking at something cool. There are some nice effects to be found and it all works well enough, but the problem is that within about thirty seconds, you’ll be wondering where the rest of it is. The Easel has the potential to usher in a childlike sense of wonder and creation for sure, but even that will have you thinking “So what’s next?” by the time you’ve completed a single track.
The main issue here is one of finance. If Harmonix Music VR cost a dollar or two, you’d probably get your money’s worth. It’s definitely a piece of software that demonstrates VR to new users to an extent, so might be something you fire up when showing off your shiny new PlayStation VR setup to friends. However, it costs $14.99. That’s twice the price of the likes of Tumble VR and only five bucks short of 100ft Robot Golf, Hustle Kings VR, Super Stardust Ultra VR, and the excellent Thumper, all of which would be much, much better investments.
This review is based on the PlayStation VR version of the game, which we were provided with.
Harmonix Music VR is a half-hearted compilation of four tech demos that are interesting for less than a minute apiece. With so many other things to try on PSVR for a similar price, you’ll feel short-changed if you waste your money on this.