At GDC this year, I had a chance to step into Beat Saber, an upcoming rhythm game from Czech Republic-based indie studio Hyperbolic Magnetism that tasks you with slicing flying cubes with lightsabers to electronic dance music. If that sounds cool to you, then you’re in luck. It is cool – but more than that, it’s also ridiculously well executed.

It’s a deceptively simple concept; blocks appear about a 20 meters away marked with colored directional arrows. The color of the arrow corresponds with the color of your lightsaber, so you have to slice the right block in the right direction, and do it on the beat (more or less). The tutorial level I played before actually getting into the gameplay was about as short as that description.

In case you missed the teaser that went viral earlier this year, garnering 1.5 million views so far, here it is:

Obstacles are tactically placed to get you moving. A combo-breaking glass wall will periodically slide into view, sometimes making you move to the left or right, and sometimes making you duck for cover for fear of losing your precious combo multiplier. Blocks bearing an ‘X’ force you to not only be accurate in your slices, but move your sabers to safe positions so you don’t accidentally hit them.

Slicing a few blocks isn’t that difficult. The challenge comes in economizing your movements so you can whip through a dense patch of blocks, slicing downwards and resetting for a quick left and right swipe.

Without knowing it, I was dancing – not as great as, say, Kent Bye from Voices of VR Podcast (seen below), but I was unexpectedly moving my feet, getting into the rhythm of the game and having a blast. Even though the game doesn’t give out points for style, Beat Saber created an immediate need for me to be stylish.

Some of this can be chalked up to the game’s haptics, which create a satisfying buzz in your controller when you touch anything with your sabers. I found myself artfully dragging my lightsabers against the glass barriers while slicing down blocks, and feeling the rumble of what my brain plausibly accepted as an energy beam slicing through anything and everything. This little addition helped be feel like the swords were really there, and gave me an instant mental model of their size and reach.

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The impossible, twisting architectures swaying ahead of me and neon lightshow blazing in the background are an exclamation point at the end of every interaction I had with Beat Saber. Despite the outside optics of spazz-dancing (who cares anyway), I felt cool.

Coming to Early Access in April to SteamVR-compatible headsets, Beat Saber will arrive with 10 songs, each with 5 levels of difficulty. Developer Ján Ilavský told Road to VR that there’s a possibility of also releasing a level editor in the future that could allow you to place blocks and barriers yourself. Music, for now, is created by video game composer Jaroslav Beck, although Ilavský was adamant that the studio was actively reaching out to other artists to fill out exclusive, purpose-built music for the game moving forward.

The Beat Saber website features the PlayStation VR logo, indicating future support, although Hyperbolic Magnetism hasn’t officially spoken about when PSVR support will arrive.

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  • PMSL at the second video. I love the audio in this game, will buy this when it comes out

  • gothicvillas

    Love the concept. Day 1 purchase for me.

    • impurekind

      Yeah, I’m pretty much instantly sold too.

  • Raphael

    Levels designed by hand with no ability to load user songs is quite a limitation for this style of game. 10 songs initially is ok if the price isn’t too high. A level editor also isn’t ideal for this type of game. Really needs AI auto generation.

    • Stephanie

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    • Flamerate1

      I recommend trying mobile guitar hero clones. A lot of them have ways to generate tracks from the sound, but problems occur quite often.

      I personally prefer having an editor, but having the ai generation as well would make it a lot better. For people who also want to manually create levels, the generation would also make that process easier. Conclusion: I agree, but we should have both functions.

      • Raphael

        Thinking about it.. I rarely play my own tracks with these beat games anyway so editor is fine. Perhaps a steam workshop.

    • impurekind

      But what’s there looks like an amazing start and there’s nothing to say they can’t and won’t add even more in the future.

    • Jackscape 2

      No. Auto generation for a rhythm game has never worked and it never will.

      • Jackscape 2

        Also how would a level editor not be “ideal”?

    • DanDei

      My ideal would be an Algorithm for your own songs and then put an editor on top of that so you can fine tune and correct what the program didn’t get right. Give me a blend of this game with Audioshield plus an editor and it will be my first VR game to cross the 100 hours mark (although Audioshield is closing in on that mark, since I have a long favorites list of the songs I found to work best with the program)

    • Benamax

      There is a level editor that will be introduced sometime after release. They also said that auto-generation won’t be an option, cause it’s often inaccurate.

  • Mateusz Pawluczuk

    This is shaping up to be a great game :) Love the soundtrack too. The hype is well deserved :)

  • Flamerate1

    New idea: Introduce leg tracking into the game.

    Think about it and reply with elaboration.

    • impurekind

      I don’t thin it’s necessary and would probably be overkill. There is a little bit of stepping left and right and even ducking, possibly even jumping too, and that’s enough leg movement/interaction for me.

      • Flamerate1

        Nah man. We have to turn this into some hole in the wall stuff.

        Yeah it’s probably overkill now that I think about it.

  • impurekind

    This looks very cool indeed. Hopefully it works flawlessly with the Oculus Rift too.

    • Personally I hope they launch on Oculus Home too.

      • Jesper Nielsen

        yeah :) im not touching steam! sorry not gonna happen. but i would buy this game if it was on oculus store.

  • neil rosson

    not interested if i can’t use my own music as normally these type of things offer a dreadful choice of music.

  • Harris

    Glad Lucasarts aren’t being overzealous about their IP. This looks great!