I’ve had lots to say about Synth Riders on PC, celebrating their expansion packs and noting in my review that it’s my favorite VR game in the rhythm genre. Now, the song and dance synth experience has come to Sony’s headset, and it has only gotten better since its initial launch in 2019. Could Synth Riders Remastered Edition capture a whole new audience on the PlayStation VR2? Well, it’s certainly sucked me back in. Let’s move it!
Any rhythm game, VR or otherwise, is held together by its soundtrack, and boy does Synth Riders have a fantastic one. (which you can check out on Spotify right here). There are 31 tracks from artists you know (if you are into this scene) including Jeremiah Kane, Occams Laser, PRIZM, Sunset Neon, Overvad, Stilz, Dance With the Dead, Scandroid, Powercyan, Voicians and Celldweller. These tracks are an excellent start, and nearly every track is a hit, but developer Kluge Interactive has already put in a lot of miles on expanding the game far further. Partnerships with bands like Caravan Palace, Lindsey Stirling, Muse, and Gorillaz have brought awesome theming and tracks, and a few collections also add songs from folks like Bruno Mars, Starcadian, Pennywise, Rancid, The Offspring, Au5 & Chime, and more. There’s even a League of Legends pack if you are into it. With no end in sight, there are already 100 songs available at launch.
When I reviewed Synth Riders back in 2019 (it came out the year prior), the game was still fairly new, and very much development in flight. Don’t get me wrong, it was already fantastic but a few years of work has added a massive list of new features in addition to the aforementioned song expansion. While many folks will play this game solo, the Remastered Edition brings with it the cross-platform multiplayer that just recently launched on the Meta Quest 2. It adds a social element to the game that you wouldn’t expect. Stacking up head-to-head versus another player online, you’ll play the track simultaneously as your scores are displayed at the top of the screen. As you progress through the song you’ll see the leader position bounce back and forth until you finally cross the finish line.
Once you start up a room, others can jump in, or you can limit it to just your friends. Additional settings like randomized colors, boosts, activated power-ups, and even an embiggen mode to make the notes huge. If you are so inclined, you can enable push-to-talk or open channel voice chat, though I find that I’m usually concentrating far too much to talk during gameplay. It’s a cool addition, and with the built in capabilities of the PSVR2, it’s all made easy. Better still, it supports cross-platform play, so you can stack up to 10 people into a head-to-head battle.
I did run into one issue in playing with folks on the PC – custom songs. While I have all of the tracks available to the PSVR2, folks on the PC are able to mod their game and introduce new songs or ones that have been adjusted. Obviously those are a no-go on the PSVR2, so you might run into a lobby or two that you just can’t use. That said, I was surprised at just how welcome and open the community really is – everyone is excited to play with you, and they aren’t shy about saying so. I would have happily recorded a session, but they also have a penchant for swearing it seems. At least they are happy and enthusiastic about it!
Beyond the multiplayer aspects of the game, there are a number of new modes and features to expand the ways you can play the game. Sure, you can bang away on the tracks and just try to get better at them, but why not add spin to the mix? Selecting 90 degrees will move the center point of the screen up to 90 degrees to the left or right. You can go all the way up to 360 degrees and then some, but me mindful of that cable. You can also make the colors turn into rainbows when they get close, forcing you to memorize the song, or have them disappear completely when they get close. You can make the notes huge or make them into tiny little pinpricks or halos. You can change the colors, adjust the speed, and much, much more. The world is your oyster – go crazy.
Each of the tracks can be played on Easy, Normal, Hard, Expert, and Master (though the latter is locked until you earn it), and thankfully those ranges mean something. Easy is literally accessible to anyone – my mom can play it. Normal is still fairly easy, and the jump to Hard is a solid increase. You can also set a practice no-fail mode to learn the ins and outs of a track. In the end it’s all about score, accuracy, and that feeling you get as you crush the leaderboard, but with so many fun tracks it’s hard to not just succumb to the rhythm and have fun. Just for demonstration purposes, here’s the same song, Carbon Cult, on Normal to compare to the Hard version from earlier.
There is one thing, despite all the videos I did capture, that I didn’t want to spoil in Synth Riders – Experiences. Some of the song packs have a tag on the track that says “EXP”. No, that doesn’t stand for Expansion, but instead “Experience”. Muse and Lindsey Sterling, for example, pick some of their best work and build an amazing visual explosion for you to enjoy. You are welcome to swing along to the song and try to hit the notes, or you can drop your arms and just experience the wonder. It may be a little disorienting (a flip in Lindsey Sterling’s experience comes to mind) as the team pulled out all the stops to make this a visual feast. I’m a VR nausea sufferer and I was able to weather it just fine, so I suspect you will too. These truly do live up to their name, and I’d hate to have you see that on a flat screen – this is one experience you’ll need to see for yourself.
Aesthetically, the game is evocative of a neon-bathed cyberpunk world. Part Blade Runner, Neuromancer, and even Stranger Things, each of the sixteen (with more on the way, no doubt – we started with just seven) is a nod to amazing 80s nostalgia. One has a pair of female sphinxes that resemble the Southern Oracle in The Never Ending Story, another has a massive Max Headroom-like head in the background that tracks to your headset. Another level has huge 80s mixtapes floating monolithic above your head. Like Rock Band, it’s a little hard to focus on all this eye candy because there’s a whole lot going on in the foreground, but that doesn’t make it less cool. It’s also a visual treat for anyone watching you play.
I’m happy to report that tracking and framerate on the PlayStation VR2 is rock solid. I never had an issue with framerate, and I never felt like I dropped a note due to tracking regardless of difficulty level. It’s a nausea-free experience, but surprisingly there are a number of aliasing adjustments and other tweaks to the visuals that you can make to ensure it’s comfortable for anyone to play.
For those on PlayStation VR2 who also happen to own a camera, you’ll notice I have three tracks above where I’m showing myself on screen. Enabling Broadcast mode will livestream your gameplay with a video superimposed onto wherever you designate, letting players see your hand movements along with the results on screen. I had someone recently describe the gameplay (at least on Hard) as “intimidating”. Showing what I’m actually doing is not going to dispel that – the game will get you moving.
The only hitch with Synth Riders is also somewhat of a strength. There are about 30 tracks that come with the base game’s three track packs, and everything else is tied to DLC. The songs will run you $1.99 each, or $10.99 for a full pack. Thankfully the base price is fairly low, so you should have a few bucks left over to buy what you want. I just wish the platform let us try before we buy to make sure we like the layout.
There’s something about Synth Riders that keeps me coming back. I love the workout, sure, but the music is just so catchy. It feels more like dancing than just swinging my arms, and that puts it in a class above other games like Beat Saber in my book. If you are looking for a fun music game, look no further. This one will give you a workout while simultaneously dazzling you with more neon than you’ve ever imagined.
With incredible aesthetics and an ever-expanding soundtrack, Synth Riders continues to dominate the rhythm game beat. It’s accessible, fun, and an absolute must-have for anyone with a VR headset. Come on in – join the neon-soaked party.
- Well-balanced and excellent soundtrack
- Fresh gameplay modes even for returning players
- Accessible at all levels
- A visual treat for playing and those watching
- Buttery smooth framerate
- I wish more tracks were included