Review: Symphony of the Machine (PSVR)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Oculus Rift
  • HTC Vive

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • PlayStation VR Required
  • DualShock 4 Optional (1)
  • Move Optional (1)
Title: Symphony of the Machine
Format: PSN (3.23 GB)
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Publisher: Stirfire Studios
Developer: Stirfire Studios
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: E
PEGI: 3
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 523 of the podcast at 79:55.
Ep523

Gameplay:
You appear in a dry, dusty valley in the shadow of a huge tower. Glyphs painted on the rock walls around you hint at weather manipulation. Since the only place to go is the tower, that’s where you’ll be heading.

Movement is as simple as pointing and clicking at a spot to be teleported instantly. You can also rotate left and right one “blink” at a time. I didn’t feel any discomfort or nausea at any time while playing so the developers have clearly done something right with the control scheme.

Once in the tower you’ll be eased into things. It’s pretty straightforward as a floating robot buddy bleeps and bloops his way around in a tour of sorts. You’ll quickly learn the sounds for affirmative and negative which can be helpful.

The puzzles are based on splitting, reflecting, and redirecting a beam towards different glyphs placed around the tower. These will generate wind, clouds, sun, and rain. To do this you’ll be given a few mirrors to change the angle of the beam and some t-shaped tubes to split the beam. You’ll eventually be given filters for heat and cold as well.

Each puzzle starts with the robot bringing you a planter full of soil and a seed. It will then show you the weather pattern needed to make the plant grow and you’ll need to decide which glyphs to activate to accomplish the task. Most are obvious but some will require a bit of deductive reasoning.

… use the robot to carry stuff for you …
Further complicating things, each time the beam hits a glyph a series of hexagons form a small barrier somewhere else on the platform, usually blocking the second glyph you’re trying to reach. There are many ways around these barriers with the tools at hand so a little trial and error will get you a long way.

You’ll be doing a lot of moving around the platform, grabbing objects, and placing them. The only problem is that you can’t carry anything with you when you do. It’s frustrating at first but you’ll quickly learn how to get around it.

For the most part it all works pretty well. I had to keep reminding myself to blink-turn to reach an object rather than turning my entire body because more often than not I’d lose control of the object I was reaching for and it would glide back to where it was.

There’s a pretty nice mechanic where you can hold down the grab button and a mini tractor beam-like cone will reach out and pull in a nearby object. It won’t grab things at a distance but it’s enough to get the stuff that’s just out of reach so you don’t have to relocate your body again.

Another useful trick is to use the robot to carry stuff for you. Since it will always follow you around the platform asking you to generate the next weather pattern, it’s easy to place several objects on top of it and move.

Control is handled by either a DualShock 4 or a single Move controller. I tried each of them and between the two I prefer the latter. Both work well but I found that the precision and feel of the interaction was much better with the Move controller.

… much of the processing seems to have been put into the weather effects …
There are seven plants to grow in the story mode which is over much too soon. It’s fun but it feels like it could have used another twist or two to give it some more depth. As I got to the seventh plant I was expecting the game to add another wrinkle and suddenly it was over. Fortunately, a Day One patch adds a Sandbox Mode where you’ll be given an endless number of plants to grow.

This highlights the most glaring omission in the game, the lack of a real story. You’re given tantalizing clues to something bigger right from the start. Paintings on the rocks show people alongside the glyphs apparently controlling the weather.

I get mystery and intrigue. I get alluding to a bigger story that’s never fully explained. This, however, is a game that really needs that explanation. What happened to this world and its people? Why is this machine here? With the story complete and the world getting green again, what now? Nothing is ever explained and none of the rock paintings are ever expanded upon.

Visuals:
This is a good looking game. With a relatively small world to render, much of the processing seems to have been put into the weather effects and the result is excellent.

I looked up at one point during a heavy rainstorm and instinctively closed my eyes as the drops hit my face. There’s a dramatic difference in the lighting and shadows from a bright blue sky and an overcast one and it’s all really well done.

… a decent but all too brief game …
Audio:
The audio helps set the mood with the whistling wind, the crack of thunder, and even the bleeps and bloops of your robot companion. You’ll always know where he is by the 3D audio processing. The music is calming and welcome when it makes its presence known.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Symphony of the Machine is a pretty good puzzle game but it falls just a bit short. Just when it feels like it’s getting started, the story mode is abruptly over. The backstory of this world really needed more than a few rock paintings because everything feels a bit thin.

The Sandbox Mode helps mitigate that some, but it really feels like one or two more mechanics would have made this a much more robust experience. As it is, it’s a decent but all too brief game.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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