From the same stable as cult hit Audiosurf, many will already have an idea of what they should be expecting from virtual reality (VR) exclusive, Audioshield. More than a simply music virtualisation programme, Audioshield brings your music library into VR in a simple yet compelling interactive experience, and does so in a mostly commendable fashion.
Based upon the same audio analysis system as Audiosurf 2 (though with significant advancement, VRFocus has reliably been informed) Audioshield is able to bring any song from your personal collection into the experience. It has the ability to stream direct from Soundcloud, though therein lies one of Audioshield‘s most significant issues.
The interactive nature of Audioshield is a pure high-score challenge. Within a singular and particularly sparse environment, glowing balls will come flying towards the player in time with the rhythm of the chosen song. Red balls must be deflected with the red shield on your right arm, while blue with the left. Purple balls will require a combination of both arms. Each track and shield arrangement (at present there are a small number of shield types to choose from, related to difficulty) features it’s own online leaderboard, allowing you to directly compete on an even footing.
It’s surprisingly accurate, with a slower pace during low tempo sections and increasing the challenge for more complex arrangements. It does get confused on occasion, especially with denser music, and the occasional glitch will see the player unable to continue due to height or body misplacement. It’s not a simulator sickness inducement, but rather an annoyance that developer Dilan Fitterer will hopefully fix in due course.
The bigger issue however, is highlighted by that Soundcloud streaming above. For some reason, the menu system within Audioshield is more often than not wholly unresponsive, resulting in having to remove the head-mounted display (HMD) to select a new song and difficulty setting. This in itself is enough of an annoyance – especially when the immersion factor during each song is so great – but opting to stream requires the song to be opened within a browser. Often, the menu errors cause multiple browsers to open the same song (in VRFocus‘ experience with Audioshield, every time a Soundcloud track was selected from the non-VR menu a browser window would open and automatically connect, and then a second browser window would open when choosing to start the track in VR) with neither version of the track starting at the same time as the gameplay.
Opting for music sorted on your local harddrive is a much safer option, though arguably misses an opportunity to get people involved in music they may not have heard before; clearly a passion project from a music lover, Audioshield would cherish the view of being seen as a pathway to widen one’s aural tastes.
Audioshield is a wonderful VR adaptation of a much-loved series, and should be commended for bringing something entirely unique to the new medium this early on. However, it’s far from without issue, and as such is harder to recommend. Those already indebted to the franchise or with a passion for music will overlook the problems in favour of the experience Audioshield provides when everything runs smoothly, but players with shorter attention spans may start looking elsewhere in frustration very soon after purchase.