PAX AUS Indies 2016: Symphony of the Machine

Posted on November 9, 2016

Symphony of the Machine was one of my absolute standouts of PAX, not just the indie “PAX Rising” section, but the entire Expo. Perth-based studio Stirfire has brought us one fantastic title with Symphony of the Machine, and it was all born from a Game Jam of all places. This VR puzzler is the perfect companion to relax with.

Even though I was on the crowded PAX floor and had a guide whispering in my ear, Symphony of the Machine managed, in the short time I had with it, to completely engage me into its world. The concept behind the VR puzzler is simple; you’re standing at a TARDIS-like control panel and have to guide beams of light to switches around you, in order to manipulate the weather conditions.

The puzzles were easy enough to follow initially, and I felt myself joining the flow of the world as the soundtrack swept me into the experience. The clear and relaxing chimes as the weather mechanics triggered felt soothing on what was an incredibly hectic day.

Symphony of the Machine was born during the 2016 Global Game Jam. The team loved the concept and the ideas behind Symphony of the Machine so much, they brought it in as a new major project for the studio as soon as Game Jam was over. Symphony of the Machine is a game that genuinely has the feel of something loved by its creators. A perfect idea, a beautiful concept, a lovely theme; all being constructed by just the right people. This is one of my favourite types of experiences.

This is a title that would only work within VR; this is actually one of the titles responsible for me spending far too much money on a VR headset last weekend, as it absolutely sold me on the concept of VR being more than a gimmick. The way in which the puzzles in the game have been designed absolutely wouldn’t work outside a VR environment. Stirfire has built a serene puzzler that will relax you sooner than it will frustrate. Each puzzle has been designed with no one solution, it’s all about perspective and the approaches people can take to solve the puzzles can vary wildly.

Stirfire had a solid focus on accessibility when designing Symphony of the Machine. Touching again on the previous point, each puzzle doesn’t have a single solution, and that capability extends to the people playing the game; as this is VR, in particular a game that is played standing up, even the height of the player is taken into account and those who are tall and those who are shorter may find themselves taking completely different methods to find the solution to puzzles based entirely on their own different perspectives.

Motion sickness is a major issue with a number of VR experiences, and I’m happy to report that Stirfire has taken great care when crafting Symphony of the Machine to reduce, and attempt to eliminate motion sickness when playing. The movements are designed around a quick snap to new locations by means of a “click to move” marker; without actual lateral movement, the occurrence of motion sickness is reduced significantly.

I could honestly picture myself lost in the world of Symphony of the Machine for ages. Being able to completely remove myself from my surroundings, and keep my mind engaged and distracted is a use for VR I can completely see taking off amongst the mainstream. Everyone needs an escape sometimes, and this is one of the truest times I’ve felt it. Symphony of the Machine has captured my heart and I cannot wait to see it completed. If you get the chance I highly recommend checking it out. And for those without VR, be sure to check out D3bug, a platform shooter with signature Stirfire art and creative gameplay.