AUDICA is the love child of Space Pirate Trainer and Beat Saber, two great games that have been merged together in a rhymic harmony.
Competition is a lovely thing. It sparks innovation and ingenuity with the single goal of setting out to be different amongst its peers. We’ve already had a number of beat games on the Quest who each have attempted to knock Beat Saber off of its neon thrown, but for me, AUDICA has been the only alternative beat game to lure me back into it on a regular basis.
Developed by Harmonix — makers of Rock Band and the more recent Dance Central on the Oculus Quest — it takes some pedigree to be able to offer the quality and depth that a game in this genre needs in order to compete with its fellow peers. Thankfully, AUDICA appears on the Quest with all of its neon blasters firing; bringing a wealth of both generic and popular electro-music tracks and a game mechanic that works well enough to appear less like of a me-too app.
AUDICA’s main gameplay mechanic comes in the form of shooting targets in time with the music’s beat. Now, before you mutter the words ‘that’s just Pistol Whip’. No, this is much more different, and it is way more in keeping with the rhythm-based genre it is competing in and that’s what its developer excels so well in doing.
In the game, you stand on a small platform with a landscape of a crystal mountain, space-like, sci-fi world that wraps around you. It looks very 1980s sci-fi, which is kind of fitting with today’s fashion and trends at the moment, as well as the kind of music that features in the game.
With a music track selected, it’s just you, the music and a pair of neon rhythm blasters in each hand, score-chasing to the top of the online leaderboards. As each music track plays out, you see a number of two different coloured targets float into view with an accompanying ring that closes in on the target, once the ring reaches the target you have to shoot the target with the same coloured blasters that’s in your hands. Keep doing this for around 2-3 minutes of the track and you obtain a score at the end that reflects your accuracy, timing and an added bonus on top if you manage to shoot all the targets without missing any.
In harder difficulties, you are asked to hold triggers down, which works nicely with long notes in the track and is accompanied with an enhanced bass rumble on top of the one that’s in the track. There are also targets you shoot and then move your blaster to follow the tail of smaller targets and there are even smaller targets that require more pinpoint accuracy to clear them. Not clearing a target gives a muted sound to the track until the next target is hit — a technique that’s very reminiscent to Rock Band.
The electro-music tracks available are plentiful in AUDICA. I was surprised at how many are available to you, and for free. That’s the luxury of being a developer of some classic music-based games paying off here. Artists such as David Guetta, Deadmau5, Wolfgang Gartner and DJ Fresh all feature as free tracks in the game alongside some less known and more generic, but still decent, music tracks. If you wish to expand on this already voluminous list of playable tracks, you can pay for additional single tracks, opt for music pack bundles or go for the ‘all you can eat’ option and purchase a season pass.
All of the free tracks can be accessed and played through the game’s Solo mode. But for pure completionists, the game’s Campaign mode allows you to play through each of the game’s tracks through varying difficulties, each with various challenges and tasks to complete in, in order to score big or unlock the next level of tracks in the campaign.
The game’s Advanced difficulty can feel a little punishing on certain tracks whilst requiring Jedi-like reaction skills, but the Beginner and Standard levels are just as fun without feeling all too easy. This is helped with the score accuracy system adding another layer of difficulty for the score chaser. Completing in various areas in the Campaign mode will uncover new backgrounds to play in and additional rhythm blasters to select from.
Some of the challenges are good fun to try out. These can range from things like faster-moving targets to shoot, to blind firing at them without looking, and even moving your arms around to reach a set distance. All of these may sound minor, but they do add some added depth to what is a familiar and consistent rinse and repeat gameplay. Additional difficulties also expand on this by adding more ways to shoot at targets, through to bashing oncoming orbs away in time with the beat with your blasters.
This latter mechanic was more of an annoyance for me because it can take you out of the zone a little bit, feeling as if it is overcomplicating the common game mechanic that is just fine as it is. It didn’t quite look or follow the same aesthetic or feel of the game’s overall gameplay mechanic. It felt more like an afterthought to expand on the variations of shooting mechanics, and its visuals certainly look temporary too.
Visually, the game looks great. Using this sci-fi-like neon theme is a little safe to me, and it could have had an aesthetic that separates it from the many other 1980s/90s, neon-looking games that are already abundant on the Quest. Between the Quest and Rift versions (using Oculus Link and Cross-Buy), I found there was very little difference between them with mostly particle amounts, framerates and sharpness in the backgrounds being the most obvious changes on the Quest.
Overall, AUDICA is now my second favourite beat game on the Quest, sitting below the most obvious Beat Saber and we’re not including Pistol Whip here either. With its large music library of electro beat tracks and by making more than a decent attempt of merging both shooting and music genres, AUDICA is the love child of games like Space Pirate Trainer and Beat Saber, two great games that have been merged together in a rhymic harmony. If you’re into your rhythm games and you fancy playing something a little different, then be sure to download AUDICA.