As more VR games are being developed we’re seeing simple or older mechanics resurge in new, exciting ways, and Symphony of the Machine is no different. In some ways, it’s a glorified laser puzzle game where you need to manipulate a beam of light to hit certain locations, yet thanks to a wonderfully designed setting, it’s so much more.
Symphony of the Machine drops you nearby a giant tower. Going up the elevator, you’re welcomed by a robot who gives you a mirror, a pot full of dirt, and a bulb. It then proceeds to tell you the weather required. Using the mirror, you need to redirect a laser shooting up the centre of the room, to a machine sporting the symbol reflecting that weather. Doing this starts the process of the plant growing, and the robot then proceeds to give you the next weather pattern required.
Directing the laser is easy, until you’re given a laser splitter, and suddenly you need to hit two weather types at once. This is where the game’s challenge kicks in, as starting up one machine will usually cause a barrier to cover another. The barriers aren’t too big, but they force you to move around the platform more to ensure you reflect the beam far enough away to get around the obstacle.
Once you’ve created enough of the required weather patterns, you’ll be presented with a grown plant, which you put aside, and start again. The puzzles start easy enough, but as you progress you will be presented with another splitter, more mirrors, as well as filters with heat and cold elements, which result in more shields being thrown up. Navigating the laser beams around multiple shields progressively becomes more challenging.
The gameplay is simple enough, but what VR brings to the party is the beautiful immersive experience surrounding the puzzles. Every time a machine is lit up, the weather is affected in the environment around the tower. So when you bring in rain, puddles develop. Soaking in the environment isn’t required to beat the game, but you would be remiss to not take the time to enjoy the changes surrounding you. The plants growing in the pots also have an environmental impact, which won’t be explicitly spoilt here.
If the beautifully designed environments aren’t enough immersion for you, the game’s sound is fantastically implemented too – with some caveats. Each machine creates its own musical chimes when lit up, making each weather combination unique. Conversely, there are the annoying sounds the robot assistant makes. Its beeps don’t fit the feel of the game, and eye-contact with it creates an irritating sound which can’t be described. It was so painful that I turned down the audio volume.
The game isn’t totally bug free either, with the robot getting locked into positions, either interfering with object placement, or obscuring your vision. One of the plants refused to grow, despite the puzzle being complete. While these aren’t game breaking, they are unfortunate. Another annoyance was the game’s controller mappings; buttons are shown, but their functionality isn’t described. A quick two or three sentences at the start would have removed five minutes of frustration.
Once you complete all the laser puzzles required to grow all seven plants, a small open-world is yours to explore – with all your changes to the weather present. There is some fun to be had in going up the tower, experimenting with the weather, then making your way back down to experience the effects – including creating new patterns effects like tornadoes.
Playing the game on PSVR, I first completed it using the controller. This caused multiple issues with piece manipulation, as the controller’s light bar disappeared from the camera’s view. This is overcome by adjusting how often you move around the platform, but it does get frustrating. Once I started using the move controllers, the game was made infinitely simpler.
Some minor annoyances and bugs aside, Symphony of the Machine takes a simple puzzle mechanic of light redirection, and makes it a little challenging – while also surrounding you with a beautiful world waiting for you to manipulate its weather.
Blair received a digital copy of Symphony of the Machine from the developer for review.