Symphony of the Machine is one of many virtual reality puzzle titles to hit the PlayStation 4 over the past few months, and it still amazes us how varied these games can be. This time around you'll be directing light using mirrors to solve the conundrums in a short but beautiful ninety minute experience.
The game begins in a deserted desert with nothing but a very tall tower in sight. At the top you are met with a beautiful view of the surrounding environment, a little robot willing to assist you, and a bright beam of light in the centre of the tower. This light is the centre-piece to all of the puzzles and the robot will provide you with mirrors and splitters so that you can shine it onto the different glyphs located around the tower. Each glyph is associated with a different weather effect – sun, rain, wind, or cloud – and when the light is shone upon them the weather in the environment around you will also reflect that, changing the appearance of the entire landscape below; it's quite the spectacular marvel to watch in virtual reality.
The little robot requires your help in growing his different plants: cacti, flowers, and evergreens to name but a few. He provides you with a pot and a bulb and you must follow his instructions on what weather effects to initiate with the beam of light in order to make his plants thrive. The puzzles will start off easy with just a simple combination of sun and rain required and eventually more pieces will be added to make it more complex. Every time a glyph is activated it will bring up barriers to stop you projecting the light in a certain direction; instead, you have to use the mirrors provided to send the light around the obstacles. More mirrors, splitters, and barriers are all added into the mix in later levels to keep things challenging.
The controls are not the easiest to pick up; although certain buttons are indicated to you, their function isn't immediately obvious, and with no description you are really left to your own devices. You're able to teleport yourself around and then rotate your view using the d-pad. Using the triggers you can pick up objects and move them around by moving and rotating the DualShock 4 or PlayStation Move controllers. Although the controls may sound simple enough, in action it's a very different story. When moving objects across a large distance it can be very frustrating, especially as the objects will revert to their original position every time your controller leaves the tracking area of the camera, which happens a lot. Also, trying to precisely place mirrors and splitters can be a pain unless you have an inhumanly steady hand.
Although our time with the game was generally enjoyable, there were far too many bugs present; they weren't game breaking but some of them were very irritating. One such bug made everything seem to get stuck in a loop, the light barriers appearing and disappearing constantly and the music playing the same few notes over and over until we restarted the level. In addition, the little robot – who is rather keen to help out – will often float just out of reach with important items you'd like, and will also accidentally knock items out of place that you have already precisely placed. If you thought that was bad enough, he will also float all over the place, quite often obscuring your vision whilst making some horrendous bleeping noises.
Symphony of the Machine is far from the best puzzle game available on PlayStation VR. Although the puzzles are enjoyable and challenging and the ever changing environmental aspects make for a beautiful setting, it is ultimately let down by its short length, fiddly controls, and pesky bugs. Unless you're an entomologist in desperate need of examining some bugs, we'd suggest you check out some of the other VR puzzlers – there's plenty to choose from.