'Audioshield' Brings Rhythm To VR

This week I had the pleasure of taking part in Valve’s Steam VR Developer Showcase, where I was shown 12 different experiences that will be coming out on HTC’s Vive VR platform later this year. The first game I saw was a previously unannounced title called Audioshield.

Audioshield is the brainchild of a single man, Dylan Fitterer, who happens to be the same person that produced Audiosurf and Audiosurf 2. If there’s one thing you can say about the one-man dev team, it’s that he’s well versed in building rhythm games.

At its core, Audioshield is a rhythm game set in VR. I was told the game works with any song file you have on your computer. For the demo they were using MP3s, but I was told any music format will work.

The way the game works is fairly simple, but it can get pretty intense if you play an upbeat song (which I learned the hard way). The player is given two shields, one in each hand, represented by the Vive controllers. The left hand shield is blue, and the right hand shield is orange. You can also combine them by holding them in front each other (or pressing a button) to create a purple shield that you need occasionally.

You use the shields to block incoming waves of colored balls. The balls fly in towards you, and they represent the beats of the song; they reach you when the beat drops. As you block them, using the corresponding colored shield, you earn points. Blocking with the wrong color will result in the ball passing directly through it. You don’t lose any points by missing or using the wrong shield, but missing a few in a row can be a little stressful.

The first song I chose was "Bangarange" by Skrillex, because I’m apparently a special kind of over-confident glutton for punishment. The song starts off slow, with the balls coming in one by one rather than in huge waves, and to keep it simple, the blue balls were coming from the left and the orange from the right.

By the middle of the song, things started really heating up, though. Not only were the waves coming in much faster and with denser groups of these balls, the game adds confusion by throwing away the "blue on the left/orange on the right" concept, when a big purple ball came in the middle of it.

I’ve never been particularly good at rhythm games, so I wasn’t at all surprised when I was tripped up by the increasing pace of it all, but I was surprised by how much I liked playing it. I wouldn’t have thought of a VR rhythm game myself, but I’m happy someone else did.

Fitterer told me he’s been working on Audioshield for just six months, but that isn’t stopping him from shipping at launch. Audioshield will be available in April alongside the Viva launch. I would definitely recommend giving this game a look if you purchase a Vive this spring.

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 Kevin Carbotte is a contributing writer for Tom's Hardware who primarily covers VR and AR hardware. He has been writing for us for more than four years.