It has been fairly well established by this point that puzzle titles work fairly well in virtual reality (VR). There is also a rise in interest in music-based experiences in VR, whether this is concerts in 360-degrees, or rhythm videogames. Track Lab combines both into a hybrid puzzle-rhythm title.
The idea of Track Lab is to offer players a way to interact and create with music by translating music creation into a videogame experience that is simple and intuitive.
There are two main modes to Track Lab, the first is a puzzle-based mode where you are presented with a large grid. This requires the player to place various blocks across the grid in order to make sure every point on the grid is hit with the travelling light pulse. The objects that can be moved are referred to as ‘Optics’ and you have only a limited number, which is where most of the challenge comes in.
As your progress through the puzzles, you quickly find yourself tapping your foot in time to the beat as the light pulse flashes through your orbs and Optics, making them sound off their designated noise. The difficulty curve is fairly gradual, and there is definite satisfaction to be gained from solving the puzzle and completing the tune. This is one of the ways you can divine if you are heading in the right direction, as the music changes to indicate that you are getting close to the solution.
The controls are pleasingly intuitive, as you just have to pick up the required Optic and set it down in the right space, twisting your hand or arm to make sure its orientated in the right direction. The layout takes advantage of the range of vision possible in VR, so you can quickly scan across the full grid, making very nice use of the advantages offered by VR and the PlayStation Move motion controls.
The other mode is the Creation mode. In effect, Evolver acts as a kind of gentle tutorial for this mode. This mode uses the same toolset as was present in Evolver to allow you to create your own music. There are some basic frameworks you can use, and a whole host of instrument types representing a vast array of music genres from rock to electronica or even classical.
It is remarkable easy to craft very intricate music tracks using the tools provided. You can layer music together, apply effects and change the tempo. Its quite fun and satisfying until you run head-first into a major disappointment – you can’t save them.
One of the major lacks of Track Lab is the inability to save or share your musical masterpieces as audio files. While its possible to record a YouTube video or livestream a play session using PlayStation 4’s built-in sharing, it puts a sad number of hurdles in the way to sharing your best efforts with friends, and seems to somewhat defeat the point of a music creation tool.
Having said all that, Track Lab is a well-crafted experience. It looks good, sounds even better and is wonderfully intuitive, even for people with no prior knowledge of music creation. Its definitely worth your time if you are interested in music or puzzle games. Its a good VR title, but the ability to share your music would push it over from ‘good’ to ‘great’.