A world filled with bleak red canyons. A tower stretched up into the sky. A world waiting to come back to life. Symphony of the Machine brings all this and plenty more to a puzzle based game with gorgeous visuals, great music, but occasionally questionable controls. The premise of a mystery wrapped in a tower that control the weather is interesting enough, but add to that puzzles involving lasers, and there is plenty to delve into here, and we have all the details for you!
This review was conducted on PlayStation VR.
Symphony of the Machine Digital Download See at PlayStation Store
An emotive world
The first thing you notice when Symphony of the Machine opens up will probably be the music, quickly followed by the landscape you are surrounded by. Tall red canyons that form swerving paths towards a massive Tower that reaches up and into the sky. Paintings adorn the walls that surround you, and it really is a feast for the eyes.
I cannot say enough how the score of this game really added layers to what I was seeing and doing.
The music is equally lovely, and draws you into the world easily. There are no other characters, and no narrator to tell you what is going on around you. Instead there is ambient noise when different elements are in play, and a lilting melody that plays over everything. I cannot say enough how the score of this game really added layers to what I was seeing and doing.
As you continue through different portions of the game, the colors really seem to bring everything to life. This is probably because initially, the world is painted in dark earth tones. Lots of browns, reds, and greys, until you start to bring plants to life. That's when you start to see more green, and the difference that it makes is absolutely charming.
The feel of the game translates very well into both the world surrounding you, and draws you into the mystery of the Tower and it's surroundings.
Bring the world back to life
The gameplay is really where the wheels began to come off of the wagon on this game. While the gameplay is exceedingly simple, I had some serious issues as soon as I got started. Since the game never gives you actual instructions on what you are doing, how to do it, or where you ought to be going, you're immediately thrown into the middle of things. This started out with fifteen minutes of me trying to work out what the game wanted me to do, before finally realizing I wasn't aligned with the PlayStation camera well enough.
Most of the game is based around using mirrors to activate parts of this mysterious tower you have found, along with moving and interacting with objects. However this becomes especially difficult if your controller just decides to poof from in front of you. See, during most gameplay you'll be able to see your controller floating in front of you, and giving hints on which buttons can be used to complete an action. And on occasion it will stop appearing, generally if you're too close to an item, or the PlayStation Camera can't see your controller.
Each piece of the tower that you interact with has a different function for a weather pattern.
Once you figure out the mechanics of the game, things are pretty easy, and you can play with either a Dualshock 4 or PlayStation Move controller. You can rotate the screen while standing still, and there is a targeted teleportation method for moving from one place to the next. You can pull items closer to you, as well as grabbing and moving them. These actions are key since the game is largely based around using a mirror to interact with different parts of the tower using a laser that shoots up through the top of the tower.
Each piece of the tower that you interact with has a different function for a weather pattern. This includes wind, and rain. Considering you're initially surrounded by a red, barren landscape filled with canyons, some water probably isn't a bad call. One of your first missions within the tower is to grow a plant from a seedling, and requires you to activate different elements in a particular order. Once you do so, you'll have a live plant, ready to be relocated onto part of the tower's terrace.
The puzzles straddled the line between simple and complicated.
This robot comes to life the first time you get to the top of the Tower, and it works as a guide once you are figuring things out. It will hover near where you need to go, or what you need to interact with, and has handy signs giving you clues on what your next steps ought to be. While having those hints was definitely helpful, it was also occasionally difficult to understand exactly what it wanted, or to interact with it when necessary.
The puzzles straddled the line between simple and complicated, because when you activate one element with a laser a small geometric shield will appear in front of another element. Initially this isn't really an issue because you only need to activate one element at a time. By the third plant you're dealing with a laser split in two, with double mirrors used to direct towards the elements you need to activate.
However at times, my controller would simply disappear from in front of me. While this was frustrating even when I wasn't attempting to do something, it was downright infuriating when it would happen while I was trying to move around one of my plants, or adjust the angle of a mirror. Equally frustrating was trying to interact with objects. Objects have a tendency to float back to their previous position if you move them in certain ways, and when you are trying to place an orb into a pedestal and this keeps happening, it's very tempting to rage quit.
When the game was working, I absolutely loved it. It was fun, interesting, and took a different approach to what puzzle games look and feel like in VR. The thing is, for the most part I spent far more time yelling at my screen. This went from realizing I'd been fighting with the system for 15 minutes over an action that literally took five seconds to complete once I moved my position, to items simply not registering when I was trying to interact with them. Each new problem was even more frustrating than the last, and when you can't even interact with a puzzle game, it can easily drain the fun. At least that's the way that it felt for me.
It felt as though one of the biggest problems was trying to touch and manipulate items in space, while needing to turn to adjust lasers. I say this specifically because I kept turning in such a way that the camera couldn't see the headset anymore and I'd lose hold of the item. After about twenty minutes of dealing with lasers I'd gotten used to remembering to use my touchpad to turn but it wasn't always feasible to do that in order to get the best angle.
Symphony of the Machine is a game that does an okay job of delivering an interesting gameplay experience. When it works well, it's fun and challenging in a unique way that only VR could really pull off. However it's issues with controls really can make the experience far more frustrating than rewarding or fun. Available from the PlayStation Store for only $19.99, it might worth a look if you're a fan of puzzle games.
- Gorgeous to look at
- Great musical score
- Unique and challenging puzzles
- sometimes your controller won't interact properly
- not being where the game wants you to be can make things very difficult
- The lack of a tutorial can make learning the game frustrating
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