April 26, 2017
Virtual reality is still a concept that is finding its feet when it comes to its place in the living room, but Symphony of the Machine presents as a neat, delightful puzzle game with enough subtle personality to make it completely engaging. It’s a little short, but the atmosphere and simplicity of execution ensures that the game, made by talented Aussie developers Stirfire Studios, is one of my favourite VR experiences to date.
Approaching the top of a giant tower, a small robot companion tells you without words that you need to adjust the weather by directing laser beams onto panels, combining them to help small plants grow. It starts off simple enough, moving a mirror to reflect the laser in the desired direction, but when a splitter and multiple mirrors come into play with varying requirements, it’s not as easy as it first seems.
Small digital walls appear depending on which panel is activated, meaning that the easiest path for the laser to take is often blocked, requiring additional manoeuvring. As a puzzle game, it’s not necessarily a new idea, but it’s the virtual reality experience and the way the weather impacts the visuals and audio that give it far more significance, and makes everything far more memorable.
Each panel represents Sun, Wind, Rain or Clouds, with modifiers coming into play later to create snow or volcanic heat. The weather around the tower adapts to every move you make. Having the ability to manipulate the weather is undoubtedly cool; as you make small adjustments with each puzzle, the sky changes colour and the environment reacts perfectly to the change. I often caught myself mid-puzzle, looking off into the distance and into the sky above, distracted by the gorgeous effects.
Despite a couple of particularly tricky puzzles, I still felt very “zen” as I played. Video games are often used as a way to de-stress after a tough day at work, and in this respect, Symphony of the Machine comes highly recommended. It’s satisfying and cathartic, partly because there isn’t a massive space to move around in (I recommend standing). Add to this a soundtrack that adapts with the weather and you are left with a genuinely special experience.
“I can’t fault the amount of detail that has gone into this clearly well-loved production.”
I can’t fault the amount of detail that has gone into this clearly well-loved production. Although it’s still not the perfect VR experience, as movement can be hit or miss. Using the move controllers (I wouldn’t recommend using the Dual Shock, PSVR users), you press a button, aim at the ground you want to teleport to and push another button to go there. You can also rotate left to right with another button press, but sometimes it still doesn’t quite land you in the most optimal position when you’re carefully moving objects and making minor adjustments.
Also, when the game reads you as going out of range, the object that you’re holding floats back to its original starting position, causing you to have to teleport over and grab it again. This occurs only occasionally but it was often enough that I did get a little bit frustrated and lost a bit of that zen feeling. It’s also quite a short experience. An hour or two for those who are good at puzzles is more than enough time to complete the game and appreciate your surroundings, which left me wanting more.
- Captivating and relaxing
- Puzzles are challenging but never frustrating
- Weather effects are great
- Will make you feel "zen"
- A bit short
- Puzzles aren't super varied
Symphony of the Machine is a neat little VR puzzler that is short, but incredibly sweet. Without the use of VR it would fall under the category of being just a pleasant puzzle game with some cute atmospheric touches. As a proper VR experience however, it thrives; once you put on the headset and ascend the tower for the first time, the serene and inquisitive feeling never goes away, and it kept me captivated all the way up to its completion.