For the purpose of transparency, this review was completed using a review code provided by Stirfire Studio. The use of a review code does not affect my judgement of this product.
When I first watched the announcement trailer for Symphony of the Machine I felt that something different is now on offer on the Playstation VR. Now I have played it, did I still feel it was a new experience?
To me Symphony of the Machine did not have a story that was made clear. But, when playing it you sort of start on a dried out planet and pointed towards a painting on a rock on your way to the tower you spend the game in. While in the tower you help flowers grow (will be discussed in the gameplay) – after growing the flowers the environment seems to change, and get more life to it relating to the flowers you have grown. So, maybe this is what the rock painting is depicting, and although it is not a clear spoken narrative it offers some sort of story.
Now time for the gameplay on Symphony of the Machine, this is what from the announcement trailer made me think the game could be something new – the reason being the Playstation VR doesn’t have any stand out puzzle games. After the first few puzzles which were pretty simple, I soon came to realise that this was something truly unique.
The idea of the gameplay is to use the tools a little robot brings you to defect the beam coming out of the middle of the tower to the set glyph – also shown by the robot once you have planted the bulb in the plant pot at the start of each puzzle. These glyph’s represent Clouds, Wind, Rain and the Sun, and depending on what ones you have got the beam deflects to completely changes the weather in the game – in return helping the bulb grow into a plant.
Where this may sound really easy it really does become hard as the game moves on, given you receive multiple tools to split the beam, multiple mirrors to deflect the beam, and also one plate that causes snow and the other extreme heat – again this might not sound like a huge challenge from what I have described. However, the other element to add to the difficulty of the puzzles is each glyph will form a shield that can block off the another glyph, meaning you may have to look at each puzzle to figure out the best split of the beam and the use of the mirrors. Then, add to this that both the snow and extreme heat plates will put a shield around the beam as well, some take some thinking to get them to work. Although, the gameplay idea is really simple in how it works, the difficultly of some of the puzzles make it a strong part of the game.
At first I wasn’t taken back by the visuals of the game, although they weren’t as weak as I have seen in a number of Playstation VR games it still seemed quite bland in colours, but this soon changes once your are at the tower and start to mess with the weather mentioned in the gameplay. You can go from a very still looking sunny day, to a sand-storm, to snow, to tornado’s – this really liven the visuals of the game up. The weather effects are sometimes look that great I found myself stopping completing the puzzles to go and stand at the edge of the tower to take them in. Given the idea of the game you can see the weather was a main element of both the gameplay and the visuals and it was done really well – which really helps making the game that much more immersive.
The game consists of seven main puzzles to finish that element of the game, these took me around 2-3 hours to figure out – of course it could be quicker/longer for others due to it being a puzzle game. Once you have completed the puzzles required this opens up a sandbox mode, where this is not in the niche of walking around everywhere (you are still restricted to the tower) the idea is that you can create more weather effects. In sandbox mode you are still given plants to grow and instructions by the robot if you want to follow that feel of the game. But, I spent a good bit of time on this testing what I could actually do with the weather, so this was a little way of adding some longevity to the game. Also, something for the Trophy hunters out there, one thing they have done with Symphony of the Machine is made it so some are difficult to get, and not just for playing the game (like a good few have).
Control wise the game is very simple to use, but it comes with some issues. You can play the game with either the Dualshock 4 or two Playstation Move controllers. I played it using the Playstation Move controllers, and the only buttons are required are the move button (to bring up teleport line), the trigger (to pick up items, and to confirm the teleportation, and the X and Circle (to turn in that direction). Now, where did I find the issues? Well it was all about the tracking, and the game losing the tracking and the controller. This became very annoying at times, given the precise nature of some the puzzles and deflections – one thing that made it worse was if you got the item in place and then it lost the tracking on the controller, the piece would then automatically move back the place you grabbed it from (which could be the opposite side of the tower). The Dualshock 4 controls are very similar with each side of the control representing each hand – with the Move button being replaced by Up on the D-pad on Triangle on the other side – again though as with the Move the tracking on the controller was lost at times. Without the tracking issues it could have been a great control system, so hopefully they’ll be able to patch it.
Another little niggley issue I found was with the robot, although, it was helpful giving you the parts at times it was just a pain. This was due to the fact you had no control over it, and at times when trying to get the things it was bringing over, the game seemed to readjust and move it further away from you. Where the moving away like childish game of offering something then pulling it away was annoying, it was eclipsed by the robot moving in the way of a beam and cutting it off – meaning it was just a case of teleporting around the tower until it moved.
If you have any questions about the review, or want to let me know what you think – feel free to tweet me @TattasticGamer
Stirfire Studios have tried something new with the Playstation VR with creating a 100% puzzle game. This really paid off because it felt like something completely different – with the puzzles being difficult at times and some amazing weather effects really adding to the game. Unfortunately the game is let down by some control tracking issues, and a robot that is helpful, but at times is just a pain.