THURSDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2016 |
Posted by: Alexander Spruch
2016 will be remembered as the year the current generation of consoles really came into their own as well as being the advent year for virtual reality. The latter is important to the music genre as the two work together in perfect harmony. I bring this up before presenting my list of the best music games of 2016 as every game on this list has VR capabilities minus one. With VR only in its infancy, we are going to see this relationship further explored and it's going to be beautiful. So without further ado, let's start with the fantastic game that managed to impress, even though its firmly rooted in the past.
1. Amplitude (2016) by Harmonix Games (PS4)
Many of us who had a Playstation 2 can remember playing the original Amplitude long ago. This was before Guitar Hero or Rock Band were a thing, so music games were actually few and far between. Amplitude was a much welcomed stop gap during this dry spell, and basically served as a precursor to the plastic instrument domination that would take place years later. Despite several innovations taking place in the genre since the originals' release, Harmonix's remake of Amplitude holds up wonderfully. Packed with a fairly sized electronic library, switching lanes and hitting countless notes is still a rush of excitement. Unfortunately the game lacks any compatibility with the PS4 VR Headset, but the company itself seems embracive of the technology so perhaps in a sequel.
2. Thumper by Drool (PC/PS4)
Thumper is not a game for the meek. Your senses will be assaulted as a sparse and booming soundtrack pulsates in the background. You may observe that the world Thumper takes place in is saddening. That is, if you had a second to think. Look away for a moment and you will crash into a wall. Or run into spikes. Or be killed by a digital snake. Thumper rewards hypnotic concentration and punishes deviation without hesitations. If this sort of challenge and departure from the normalcy of "compliment the gamer" philosophy sounds up your alley, go up against Thumper today.
(The game launched on PS4 with VR and the VR patch for PCs came out yesterday and it is fantastic. I imagine it's the equivalent of taking Adderall as I managed to near-perfect an earlier stage with hardly any mistakes. The VR really makes it easier to get lost in the game.)
3. Audioshield by Dylan Fitterer (PC)
For those of you have played Audiosurf before, imagine that but standing up and using your whole body. For those of you who haven't played Audiosurf, imagine a game that takes any song available on your computer or on YouTube and turns it into a customized level for you to play. In Audioshield these levels come in the form of orange and blue orbs that fly at you from the sky that you must hit with your corresponding arms (blue on the left arm, orange on the right). There's also purple orbs which require you to hold up both arms at once. This may not sound exciting in text, but I assure you Audioshield is a great time. The game rewards hitting the orbs with a punch and the whole process lends itself to losing yourself and dancing in time to whatever song you desire. The interface is ugly and buggy and if a song has never been played before it can take up to two minutes to generate the level. The unlimited library and unique experience you get in exchange is definitely worth it though.
4. Rez Infinite by Enhance Games (PS4)
If Rez Infinite was just the remaster of the original, I'm not sure if it would have made this list. What really makes Rez Infinite pop and make me excited for the future of VR is Area X. Just experiencing Rez Infinite in VR once, you can see why it has been described by producer Tetsuya Mizuguchi as a full realization of what he was trying to achieve with the original Rez. Area X lets you fly around in a particle-filled space, looking where you please with your head quickly being recognized as a freedom never experienced before in games. Soon you'll leave the consciousness of the bedroom or living room where you're playing and enter Area X, which feels like being inside an audio visualizer that you can direct. That's about as best a picture I can paint with words, to really experience how good Rez Infinite is, you'll need to play it.