If there's one thing we all secretly love, it’s bashing the ruddy heck out of 3D geometric shapes with some sort of rod or staff. Why just last week I smacked an oxo cube so hard with a chopstick it turned into a brown mist, and it’s the best time I’ve had in ages!
And now, thanks to Beat Saber, you don’t have to do your shameful polygon mauling in secret in your shed or lavatory – you can do it in the comfort of your lounge in virtual reality, with the added bonus of obscuring the faces of your disapproving family as you do so!
Beat Saber is ostensibly a rhythm game, but to me is more like a Tetris-esque experience. A game so absurdly simple and yet so absolutely spot on and finely tuned, you’ll both adore it and be furious you didn’t think of it yourself and sell the idea to a developer in equal measure.
Cubes of one of 2 colours (red or blue) advance towards you, and you have to hit said cubes with either your matching red or blue lightsaber in the direction shown on the cube by an arrow. That’s essentially it – there are some obstacles to dodge, bombs to avoid, cubes with arrows that disappear and such, but the core gameplay is as straightforward as it gets.
All this box-ruining tomfoolery is set to a beat, with the arrival of cubes in the ‘whacking zone’ corresponding to the tempo and rhythm of the backing track. Faster tracks and harder difficulty levels mean more cubes arriving more quickly, and in a more complicated order.
(NB If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to work at the arse end of an automated Amazon shipping warehouse, I reckon any level on expert is probably an alarmingly close representation of how relentless it is. Only mercifully, with less need to wee into a bottle so as not to take too many breaks and risk the tight-fisted wrath of Lex Luthor-a-like J. Bezos.)
What makes Beat Saber a winner though is how it feels to play – once you’re in the zone and swinging away like some sort of hybrid Jedi Master/kettle drum percussionist after an ill-advised espresso-drinking contest, it is absolute digital filth.
There are very few games that are as satisfying to finish a level of as Beat Saber, and the added immersion from VR is the icing on the cake. Yes, it’d probably work in non-VR, but it’d feel nowhere near as sexxxus. The last game that gave me a ‘Whoooo!’ feeling like this was Superhot VR, and for similar reasons. It’s just a massive adrenaline rush.
To external observers, you will appear to be flailing about like a jam-smeared drunk beset by wasps. But in-game, it’s flipping marvellous – getting into a groove, smashing box after box and racking up a huge combo to a thumping dance track is a zen-like experience.
It’s not perfect, though – annoyingly the PSVR version doesn’t have the PC version’s custom track option (not the developer’s fault – it’s just not feasible on console), though DLC packs of new songs are promised. A bit more musical variety would be nice too as it’s a bit dance-heavy, though hopefully those aforementioned DLC songs will help with this.
There are also a few fairly brutal difficulty spikes in the campaign mode, and some odd choices of challenge; some of them, such as limiting how many swings you can make in a level, seem to go against the grain of what makes the game so good in the first place.
All this melts away though when you’re thrashing your way through your track of choice in freeplay and nailing your saber swings. It may not have the infinite replayability of a puzzle game, but it’s certainly one you’ll come back to for a long time to come because it’s just so much damn fun and it feels so good to play.
And best of all, even though it’s one of the most physical VR games available the fixed view means ‘VR pukes’ are totally absent. No inner ear bewilderment here, madam – you’re more likely to have to take your headset off from getting sweaty than because you need to make use of the nearest sick bucket.
If you’ve ever wanted to be an insane, truncheon-wielding police officer breaking up a rave set in the computer from Tron by smashing up the bad guy robots out of 1980s puppetfest Terrahawks – and who among us can say they haven’t had that exactdream, eh? – then this is the game for you. Now all we need is someone from Disney to play it, and go on to create the VR Star Wars lightsaber game that so obviously needs making.
SCORE: 85bpm out of 100bpm