As part of the launch lineup for Sony's PlayStation VR headset, there are a wealth of games, alongside some less interactive experiences. In between each of these is Harmonix Music VR, which fits neither bracket.
The package boasts several different types of experience for you to mess around with. All of them involve playing music and interacting with things to different levels in accordance with the beat of the music. There are a few songs in-game, but the real allure is in the fact that you can upload your own music and use that instead.
First up is The Trip, which is a non-interactive kaleidoscope-esque tunnel of visuals. While by no means a game, the experience is really entertaining, albeit not for an extended period of time. After about ten songs, we already began to notice redundancies in the patterns and colour schemes, which took away some of the magic. Your experience will largely depend on the music you select, though.
For instance, this writer's favourite band, The Dear Hunter, was able to give us some of the best patterns and beats in the kaleidoscope, but it also had some of the least "correct" moments, too. The intricacy of a band's music will contribute to this it seems, as The Dear Hunter is a rock band, but with a pretty significant orchestral component, and 'The Trip' didn't really seems as if it acknowledged any of the orchestral stuff, as the rhythm of the visuals was largely absent for that. During our time spent with The Trip, we did however come to the conclusion that this would be a fantastic entry point for the VR uninitiated. If you have a grandparent or parent, who isn't a gamer, then the fact that they have to do nothing but enjoy the visuals allows it to have a very low point-of-entry.
The second experience in the title is 'The Beach', which, funnily enough, takes place on a beach. This one is slightly more interactive, but outside of navigating the menus, you, again, don't need to use controllers. You look around your environment and activate "events" which bring up new visualizers that take place in the environment. It's pretty much just a slightly more interactive version of 'The Trip', except it's less exciting, less interesting, and is the least impressive component of the game.
Third up is 'The Easel', which is easely the most impressive aspect of Harmonix Music VR. This one is a 3D virtual drawing space much like Tilt Brush on the Vive. It's also set to music, so the shapes you draw will pulsate and shift colours according to the tracks you choose to play. In addition to being the only component of the game that mandates PlayStation Move controllers, it's also the only 3D drawing app currently available on PlayStation VR. This alone will warrant the price of admission for those who really want an app like this, and will even entertain those who are artistically challenged – this writer included.
None of the first three experiences in Harmonix Music VR really constitute a game, however, which is seemingly where the final part comes into play – The Dance. The Dance takes place inside what appears to be a high school gymnasium, and the music you play can be manipulated by things such as a turntable, time dilation on the track, and, shudder, the Party Horn, which is just a bullhorn that completely interferes with the song. There is also the Party Cannon, which you can use to shoot random objects, like toilet paper and fish, into a basketball hoop. Additionally, there are creatures and robots, whose limbs you can manipulate along with the music and ragdoll around. And that's pretty much it. It may be the most game-like aspect of this title, but it is also easily the lamest and least enjoyable one of the bunch.
The biggest problem with Harmonix Music VR, then, is that of the four experiences offered, two aren't really worthwhile. 'The Trip' is fine for beginners and for a few songs, but honestly, the only option really worth any time is 'The Easel'. Even then, this is only true until PlayStation VR starts getting dedicated drawing apps, as they'll probably be more intricate than the one on display here.
Harmonix Music VR somewhat justifies its existence. Having a drawing app available for PlayStation VR out of the gate is nice, but everything beyond that is kind of pointless. 'The Trip's' kaleidoscope visuals are great for a couple of songs, and it's a wonderful starting point for VR beginners, but the remaining two experiences are redundant and unappealing. This is something that will be nice to have at launch for a few people, and for anyone that wants a drawing app now, but a year or two – maybe even sooner – from now, this will be a long forgotten relic of the peripheral's launch.