If you’re a fan of energetic virtual reality (VR) titles and want something different to market leader Beat Saber what do you go for? There are a number of options for PC VR users but what about Oculus Quest? Well that’s were Synth Riders comes in, a retro-inspired experience which takes you back to the neon rich 80s, offering synth sounds and some glowing pompoms to boot.
Feeling almost like Dance Central wrapped in spandex, Synth Riders turns your hands into two big balls, one bright blue the other a rather vivid purple. As with any other rhythm action videogame, it’s all about matching said ball with those hurtling towards you in various patterns.
The difficulty for any VR title entering this genre is how to be different and actually stand out. Sure VR is niche so there aren’t hundreds of these videogames but there are enough to warrant healthy competition. Synth Riders manages to just about achieve this in a couple of ways, namely the track selection and the difficulty/intensity options.
First the tunes. These are massively electronic, offering a mixture of Synthwave to Dubstep, fun and bouncy to aggressive and thumping. It’s the former that makes Synth Riders – hence the name – what it is, catchy beats and epic keyboard solos which instantly put you in iconic films like Flashdance, swinging those arms wildly like a dancing maniac. There’s a decent selection all told, with 30+ songs available.
Additionally, Synth Riders also has 7 stages to choose from – a personal favourite is ‘Chasing the Sun’ – so the visuals shouldn’t get too boring. These look they’ve been ripped right out of movies like Tron – which has inspired several other VR videogames – a rich tapestry of bold neon colours that assault the eyes.
And then there’s the gameplay. What’s nice about Synth Riders is the low entry barrier so those new to VR don’t get too overwhelmed. Alongside the standard difficulty levels rising up to Master, Synth Riders has three gameplay modes which help tailor the experience, Normal, Force and Challenge. Normal is casual fun, where all you need to do is match the ball colours. This mode is kind of like VR cheerleading just not quite as athletic. It’s great for those times where you want to dance but not really workout.
Force is where the workout truly comes into play. Same mechanics as before, just this time you need to put some effort in and punch the orbs. A force indicator for your left and right hands show how much effort you actually put in which then effects the final score. Challenge is where you can really mix things up, offering a range of adjustable options like switching obstacles on and off or upping the note speed. These options help to make Synth Riders not only enjoyable but also replayable so that you can have a somewhat different experience every time.
Developer Kluge Interactive isn’t going to break the rhythm action mould with Synth Riders yet that doesn’t mean to say there’s not plenty of entertainment to be found. The Oculus Quest version doesn’t feature the calorie tracker of the PC edition but as long as you’re doing something energetic then who cares. What you need to watch out for is a sudden addiction to Synthwave music and the desire to grow a mullet.