Audica is a rhythm/shooting game for the Oculus Rift and PSVR from Harmonix, the company behind Rockband and the exceptionally cool board game DropMix. Harmonix has been making music games for a long time, and Audica has the same ingenuity and passion as all of their past games. While the gameplay is exceptionally cool, the visuals and soundtrack didn't quite live up to Harmonix's impressive pedigree.
Skeet Shoot To The Beat
Rhythm and music games players know what to expect here: targets will fly at you and you'll need to shoot them to the rhythm of the song. There are different colored targets depending on which hand you should use to shoot them with and targets that you'll need to hold on or trace a path on after the initial shot. There are 33 songs with multiple difficulty settings, a simple career mode, and leader boards. I talk a lot about flow states when you get in tune with a game, and Audica absolutely triggers that sensation early and often. Once practiced, playing each track is almost like performing an intricate kata. The purposefulness and precision needed to play a song on the harder difficulties gave me an overwhelming feeling of badassness that even the most intense VR shooter's don't really capture.
Playing a difficult song perfectly made me feel like I was that bounty hunter droid in The Mandalorian.
Audica is an absolute blast to practice and improve at. It can get really difficult on the harder difficulties, but it never feels unfair or impossible. Just like Rockband, remembering when that one little part is coming that always messes you up is just so satisfying. I'm a fan of shooting lasers, and Audica offers the most satisfying laser-shooting of all time.
Avoid The Campaign, Though
The campaign introduces you to each of the 33 songs and unlocks cosmetics for your guns and arenas, but it also will occasionally add in unique modifiers. Some of them are pretty cool, like a psychedelic modifier that constantly changes the colors of your guns and targets, making it difficult to know which hand you're supposed to shoot with. Other modifiers, unfortunately, are so horrifically un-fun that I have to recommend skipping the campaign altogether. One of them requires you to move your arms a certain distance before the end of the song, which as far I could figure, can really only be done by wildly waving your arms around in between each shot. I had to do it three times to move my arms fast enough and I was sore, exhausted, and pretty irritated by the end of it. Before you get to the final section they ask you to do it again during a DragonForce song while your guns are also invisible. After a few attempts, I just said forget it.
Surprisingly Unfamiliar Track List
I expected a lot more popular music because it's a Harmonix game, but it seems like Beat Saber has cornered the market on well-known songs in VR. There are a couple of songs you'll recognize, like David Guetta's remix of Sia's Titanium, but for the most part, the songs are EDM/dubstep from DJ's like DeadMau5 and Au5. There's only a small handful of songs that have lyrics, which incidentally are the most fun.
There's a DLC pack on the way that includes songs from Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, and Post Malone, so I don't think hope is lost for more popular music in the game, it just might be microtransactions.
Visually Stunning, But Something Left To Be Desired
The five or so neon-lit geometric arenas are pretty bland in my opinion. I was really hoping for a more dynamic background, but there's so much stuff flying around all the time it makes sense that they needed to keep it fairly minimal. Still, more options would have been better.
I highly recommend you go into the settings and increase the particle effects to the max settings. The game calls this setting for "connoisseurs" which I really appreciate. Yes, I'm a connoisseur of colors exploding in my face. I literally can't get enough of it.
I also think it's awesome that you can choose the complementary colors for your guns. The default is blue and orange, but you can also set them to red/green, purple/yellow, or anything else you would like. I love accessibility and customization, so this is a great addition. The different gun models are pretty bland, but there's a neat Borderlands one I had unlocked by default, possibly because I have Borderlands 3.
Not A Must Play, But Definitely Satisfying For Rhythm Game Fans
When People come over to demo VR, Audica probably won't be the first game I show them. Usually, I start with Tetris Effect because it's pretty good to ease into before I blow their minds with Superhot. That being said, Audica delivers on a super satisfying shooter/music game combo that is unique even among the throngs of VR rhythm games. I definitely recommend it, provided you skip the campaign and go in knowing it's a bit feature incomplete.
A review copy of Audica was provided to TheGamer for this review. Audica is available now on Oculus Rift, PSVR, and soon, Oculus Quest.