Review: Beat Saber

Beat Saber is a virtual-reality rhythm game where you use a pair of light sabers to hit floating boxes in time to music as they come at you. Based on that description, you probably already know how interested you are in this concept.

Rhythm games exist at various levels of abstraction, and Beat Saber’s gameplay has very little correlation to the music aside from the beat. Your twin light sabers are different colors, and you’ll have to hit blocks corresponding to each color from certain directions as indicated by arrows on their side. The game also offers a one-saber mode (unfortunately only available at the highest difficulty) as well as a mode where the block patterns are more complicated but you can hit blocks from any direction without respect to the arrows.

If nothing else, Beat Saber delivers on the promise of a VR light saber game by avoiding all of the problems involved with such a thing. There are no objects that would block your light sabers and destroy the illusion, aside from your other saber (and touching the two blades together causes your controllers to vibrate, adding to the illusion that they exist in some sense). You also don’t need to move or go anywhere. As a result, the immersion is complete. The VR world isn’t like anything in actual reality, but it makes sense and it easily understood.

The most important part of most rhythm games is the feeling it gives you, and Beat Saber feels great to play. It’s rewarding to learn various complicated patterns and start making cuts in preparation for future ones. The game’s patterns often look far more complicated than they are in practice, which helps you reach impressive-looking levels of skill in a reasonable time. Flailing your arms around madly can even burn some calories.

My only issue with Beat Saber is it’s tiny list of songs, just over a dozen as of this writing (though they have started adding some as free DLC). The PC version may be preferable to the PS4 version due to the availability of mods and user-generated content. That said, what is here is a lot of fun to play. In addition to simply playing each song at increasing difficulty and with various modifiers, there is a campaign mode that introduces those modifiers and a range of special rules that offer unique challenges.

If you like music games and have a VR setup, you’ll probably love Beat Saber. I can’t say it’s necessarily a VR system seller, but it’s a lot of fun and avoids many common VR pitfalls. Hyper-realistic VR games have a lot of hurdles to leap, but if the future of VR is in experiences like Beat Saber, I think I’ll be pretty happy.

Review Score: B+

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