Audioshield, which is available to purchase on Steam now for 19.99, is exclusively for the HTC Vive and is developed by Dylan Fitterer an independent game developer whose previous work includes the much loved 2008 game Audiosurf.
Describing Audioshield and what you do in it is pretty straight forward as games go. With your Vive on you stand in the centre of your room with controllers in hand while in Virtual Reality you are standing in an arena with two coloured shields in each hand. Your left hand is holding a blue shield and your right hand an orange shield. These colours are important as matching up the colours of the shield with the incoming projectiles is what you do in Audioshield. However as simplistic as it may sound there is a bit more to it than that. Which each controller in hand your movement determines the position of the shields that you carry and as the different orbs come flying down at you, you block the corresponding colour of orb with the colour of the shield. The orbs come in three different types; a single orb, a longer straight line of orbs, and a long curved line of orbs. You aim at these letting your shield take the impact of the orbs and this is how you score points. You do on occasion get a purple coloured orb instead of blue or orange and to block this you cross your shields or pull both triggers on the controller to form a purple shield in front of you.
There are two different arenas to choose from and these do look really nice and well-polished. One you could describe as a sports arena while the other a futuristic concert hall. A few more arenas would have been nice to play around in though. You also get the choice of three shields to select from and they come in different shapes and sizes. Other than being visually different I didn’t notice any difference between each shield during gameplay.
Audioshield is a music game that will use a song to determine the pattern of the projectiles that come at you when you’re in the arena. Songs can be pulled from SoundCloud or even your own music from your hard drive so this gives you practically an endless supply of different experiences within the game. Every song you play ranks your attempt with Technical score, misses, most consecutive hits, hit percentage, artistic expression, physical activity and most powerful hit. These are then all combined to give you an overall score. Each song has its own online leaderboard with rankings so that when you play a song you are playing against anyone who has played it before you. This is a nice feature which if your favourite songs are being used in Audioshield games around the world you have a bit of competition and can encourage and motivate you to replay songs not just for the fun of trying to finish the level or for the love of the song.
The UI is pretty basic too and doesn’t look anything too flashy. I did find scrolling through songs to be actually harder than it should be, scrolling would either fly up or down too fast. I eventually found a sweet spot on the Vives touchpad and with minimum movement of my thumb I could scroll up and down by column. Unfortunately though I’d have to search for this spot every time I went back into the songs list. This was unnecessarily hard and also annoying to see it was left this way especially when the in-game mechanics flow so well.
The VR holds up pretty well and you get caught up concentrating on blocking the orbs so much you do get really immersed inside the game. When you do mistime a hit and an orb gets by your defences and flies towards your head, you do flinch a little. With the controllers there is vibrate feedback as your shield and the orb collide. An obvious feature perhaps, but adds nicely to the immersion. Plus the way orbs smash against your shield in gameplay is particularly satisfying and the animation of the orbs exploding into a lot of little pieces around you looks great and you wouldn’t get that without VR.
When I first loaded up Audioshield and had picked a song, chosen which shields to use and loaded up into the arena I started feeling like a futuristic gladiator. When the song started and all the orbs came flying towards me as I started to block them from side to side swapping my hands around I suddenly felt I was being tricked as I wasn’t a cool gladiator defending this onslaught. I was, in fact, dancing alone in a room. Audioshield can be a lot of fun but its biggest problem is it’s a rhythm game without any rhythm. The orbs seem randomly generated rather than generated off of the rhythm of the song that playing. You really want to get into the beat of the song as it reaches high tempo or hits that part of your favourite song but as you are hitting the orbs out of sync you get pulled right out of it and never get totally caught up in the music. Playing on a harder difficulty the orbs did seem more in tune with the music but it was still not perfect.
Audioshield is Guitar Hero with less guitar and more hero thrown in, with greater emphasis on action than music. It was a fun game to play in patches but not something I would keep playing for hours on end. However, I would probably pick up it up now and then and play out a few songs. It would be more suited as a party game where everyone can take turns and get to laugh at how ridiculous you look waving your hands around. The game was really let down by poor UI development and the fact that rhythm from the music is not used in the gameplay. On the plus side if you do enjoy Audioshield then you are not limited to the amount of different variations within the game. With a little more polish and a bit more variety, Audioshield could really be something to sing about.
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