Make it rain in VR with Symphony of the Machine
Australian outfit Stirfire Studios invite VR gamers on journey of music, puzzles and weather manipulation.
Symphony of the Machine places the player in a rocky desert, in the shadow of a huge tower. The tower is so out of place that it is a natural draw for the player. On the rock walls there are some beautiful paintings, all designed to give you an idea of what awaits you.
Movement in the game is by the now standard nausea-limiting point and click teleportation method. This opens the game up to everyone, even those with weaker stomachs.
Making your way to the foot of the tower, there's a lift that takes you all the way up. At the top, there's a platform that gives you a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape.
The aim of the game is to repopulate the arid desert around you with fresh new foliage. To do this you must use the ancient weather-controlling machine located on the platform.
Helping you with this task is a little floating robot that hands you the items required to operate the machine. Each puzzle starts with a pot and a plant bulb, both dutifully provided by the robot.
A beam of light shines from the central of the platform that, when directed at one of the four glyphs that represent clouds, rain, sun and wind, the weather changes accordingly. Each plant is nourished by several combinations of weather. Using the robot provided mirrors and beam splitters you must split and direct the beams, often around obstructing forcefields to select the weather.
It sounds simple, but the puzzles get increasingly difficult, introducing combos the create lightning storms, rainbows and even snowstorms.
For me, the key to a successful VR experience is the level of immersion it gives its audience. Virtual reality is the ultimate form of escapism. If the experience manages to be an innovate interactive game as well, the developers have more than succeeded in their task.
Standing there, at the top of the tower, looking out at the result of my work, seeing the once red earth get covered by green vegetation is pretty fantastic. Add to that all the weather effects like rail, snow and bellowing cloud that you can practically feel, and you start to experience the genius of the games designers.
The developer's call it a Zen-like experience and I tend to agree. It's a stress-free game that really does have a calming effect on you. I've got to say, though, that the music is a bit odd, and not really to my taste. I found it bearable, but borderline grating.
Whilst I played Symphony of the Machine using the HTC Vive, the game is also out on PSVR. The Vive controller seems a perfect device for grabbing and manipulating the mirrors and splitters. I can't imagine getting the same level of control with a gamepad.
This is 100% a VR title, the player experience owning as much to the sense of immersion as it does the actual gameplay. If it wasn't a VR title it would be a very limited pipelines-style game. As a VR game, the no-pressure puzzles and immersive atmosphere make this a great distraction for a few hours.