Virtual reality (VR) puzzle titles are fairly abundant, offering a range of brain challenging experiences to get your head around. Australian indie developer Stirfire Studios has released its first foray into this field with Symphony of the Machine, an easy going, light-bending videogame that’s enjoyable to play but feels like it ends far too soon.
Set on an arid desert planet, Symphony of the Machine revolves around nature and the elements – or more precisely controlling them – to bring life back to this desolate wasteland. The puzzles are set atop a giant tower in the middle of the desert and you have to complete various puzzles linked to certain types of fauna. At the top of this you’ll find a central beam of light that needs to be manipulated to illuminate four different panels located around the exterior. Lighting these up will create various weather conditions suitable for each plant type.
To start with you’re shown a plant and next to it a symbol of one of the panels. Using a mirror you can then reflect the light and complete one stage (out of three) that the plant needs to grow. Simple enough to begin with, the challenge then increases as more panels are required to complete each puzzle so the use of further mirrors and light splitting tubes comes into play. To increase the difficulty further, when a panel is illuminated a barrier appears in front of a different panel so that a puzzle you thought was completed isn’t due to a new barrier appearing, blocking a light beam.
This isn’t too difficult to get around, with careful consideration of which panel’s barrier blocks another, the various items at your disposal can all be used or with a bit of planning only a few. There are no time restrictions or any burden on completing a puzzle in a certain way, Symphony of the Machine has been designed a a tranquil experience that’s ideally suited to VR newbies who are getting used to the HTC Vive’s room-scale technology. On the flip side that does mean VR veterans that are well attuned to the tech will find the seven plants needed to complete the videogame only offer a short experience.
And that is going to be Symphony of the Machine’s biggest shortcoming, its actual length. It’ll probably take most players around an hour to get through the campaign, unlocking most of the achievements on route. Once completed there is an open sandbox style element there, enabling them to play around with all of the different elements to see what weather patterns can be created, but after that there’s not a lot else to keep them coming back for more.
What Symphony of the Machine really needs is another tower or two to complete, possibly joining several together in some way to increase the difficulty to a far higher degree. As a first title Stirfire Games has created an enjoyable experience while it lasts, everything is solid and works well and there were no real glitches or issues to speak of. Symphony of the Machine has some good ideas going for it, but for many players it’ll be seen as more of a tech demo than anything else.