Harmonix Music VR is a collection of music-based experiences slated to launch alongside PSVR on October 13th. Ranging from trippy to the super trippy, the experiences of Music VR are a mix of passive and interactive worlds designed to evoke what creative lead Jon Carter told me at this year’s E3 is supposed to balance between “a creative mind-state, and music appreciation.”
Donning a PSVR headset in Harmonix’ hotel suite, Carter showed me what he considered to be a near launch-ready version of the
game music thing. Divided into 4 different areas, I was first taken through an experience called ‘The Beach’, a technicolored alien planet hosting a number of gaze-based elements like flying lanterns, seashells, flowers that burst into exploding psychedelic chrysanthemums and all manner of aurora borealis dancing to the ephemeral beat of the no-name track I chose.
Around me were several islands, each with their own teleport points so I could get a better look at the new world around me. I zipped around the alien beach scene, gawking at the swirling madness around me, wondering if I would ever want to revisit ‘The Beach’, even with the promise of being able to load up my own tracks – a feature Harmonix is pushing for the release of their trippy collection of visually appealing experiences. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like there was enough on ‘The Beach’ to hold my interest any longer than a single song.
My next world was the very Tilt Brush-esque art program called ‘The Easel’, which gives you a host of strange and wonderful low poly materials to craft with, like a double helix made of blue plasma, or racing particle effects that can encircle your whole play area (it was suggested that you stand). Everything here pulses to the beat of your chosen track, and can even be heightened or lowered in intensity depending on how jazzy you like your jazz. While I’m not the most artistic person, it’s clear to me that given the chance, I would easily spend multiple sessions crafting to the thumping beat, and looping particle effects around me to no end.
Prematurely ripped from my newfound Tilt Brush acid trip, I was thrown into the weirdest experience of them all. Next up was ‘The Dance’, a party room filled with 5 or 6 little monsters, all of them waiting to be posed like dolls and bopped around to the beat. With the ability to lift their arms, legs and butts, the monsters can retain a few seconds-worth of dancing moves, so you could puppet the whole group to your liking. You can position yourself front and center, in a DJ booth with a turn table and few other wacky tools, or high above the scene so you can fling them around like rag dolls.
Spending a little time I was able to get the monsters to dance a grotesque lurch, although I know that with more practice I could get them to do a slightly less horrible-looking amble around the dance floor. While strange, and at first a little off-putting, I can fully say that I’ve never done anything like this in VR before.
Last was a 3D kaleidoscope, ‘The Trip’, which acts like a cross between a traditional music visualizer – replete with procedural patterns and colors – and a wormhole to another dimension. This is truly the wild and weird experience I was expecting from Music VR, a place I could spend time exploring all 17 tracks that come stock with the game, and trip out to The Alan Parsons Project or some equally brain-exploding symphonic ’70s rock.
While Harmonix Music VR isn’t the weirdest experience I’ve ever had in virtual reality, it certainly is the weirdest collection of experiences I’ve tried. Even now after reviewing my time with the mind-melting visualizer and rhythm toybox, I still can’t really tell you what it is, or why you should buy it when PSVR comes out in October. Is it a creation tool? Kind of. Is it a visualizer? Most certainly, but not entirely. Have I ever paid real money for a music visualizer? Nope.
But then again, I’ve never seen one that’s so cool in VR. In all, I would feel much less conflicted about Harmonix Music VR if it were a bundled
game music thing.