VR is in need of some invigorating ideas these days. While you can have endless shooters, rhythm games, and sword fighting games, at a certain point these genres can get a little bit stale. VR is somewhat limited in how each game is played because the mechanics of every game aren’t created by some set of systems, but rather you. This makes a lot of VR play out similarly and it no longer becomes the mechanics that driving your experience, but the environments, stories, and graphics that take hold of you. Because of this, sooner or later, those VR games are going to lose a bit of their luster unless something new comes along. Thankfully, something new has come along in the form of Akyrikon. It’s a workout game, a rhythm game AND an RPG all balled into one. It’s a bit rough around the edges at points, but when Akyrikon is firing on all cylinders, it shows that there is far more to VR rhythm games that have been shown up to this point.
Akyrikon gives you the choice of taking part in tutorial levels before you dive in or you can go right into the story mode and get started. How it works is each level starts with a little dialogue between a few of the main characters shedding light on what’s going on before you’re tasked with defeating your foes. The story here is light to be generous, but it’s cool that they are at least trying to add a bit of narrative into what can usually be a genre that ends up feeling really repetitive after a while. This isn’t Final Fantasy, but the effort that is there is appreciated. The fights play out in a simple fashion. You punch the various orbs coming at you according to their color like most VR rhythm games and occasionally duck and dodge obstacles. Each time you hit a certain amount of orbs, you launch an attack. If you fail at hitting them, you take damage. Both you and the enemy in the level have a stock amount of hit points. As you get damaged, these points subtract and you fail the mission once they are all gone. To add to the complexity a bit are abilities that you can equip that have different effects from increased health to launching spells like a lightning bolt at your enemy. These are activated by hitting a certain amount of orbs in a row, adding the emphasis on being perfect. You can also use the training mode to just do a normal-style rhythm game with a variety of songs available.
What it feels like to play
Akyrikon won’t be taking the mantle of best VR RPG from Skyrim VR any time soon, but that doesn’t mean it’s quite fun to play. The hook here is that with each level, the enemies get harder, and sometimes, you simply cannot advance past a certain enemy no matter how perfect your round is. When this first happened, I thought this was a serious design flaw as I couldn’t figure out how to get any further. However, I soon found out in order to increase your abilities, you had to go to the training mode in the game. It’s here where you get the more conventional VR rhythm game and through doing these, you actually increase your health as well as your level which allows you to both do more damage and unlock more abilities. This begins the fighting and training back and forth that drives the experience. It’s not reinventing the wheel, but that doesn’t matter as it’s fun as hell and the start of something extremely promising in a genre that definitely needed a refreshing slant to it.
What will keep you playing?
The drive to fight new monsters and progress through the story will definitely keep you coming back in the short term, but in the long term, you’ll keep coming back because of the endless rhythm game you can engage in here. There are a bunch of different environments to train in and things can get challenging awfully quickly here and it quickly becomes one of the more intense VR experiences. So, whether you are fighting monsters or just training to level up, you are going to get a great, full-body workout here.
You should give yourself a good amount of space while playing this as you are going to be moving very quickly while also dodging and ducking obstacles and you can quickly get overwhelmed and lose track of where you are, so don’t have anything in the immediate area that can cause harm to you.
I recorded my 30 minute workout with Fitbit and played on a Samsung Odyssey Plus Windows Mixed Reality Headset.
Calories burned: 302
Calories burned per minute: 10
Average Heart Rate: 124
Max Heart Rate: 150
Active Minutes: 30
Akyrikon is a hell of a workout that pushes you forth by giving you enemies to fight through and the challenge presented by each one. How long it will hook you is debatable, but the actual gameplay here will leave you breathless and sore after a while. Your entire body will be totally engaged during everything here and the training sessions actually will make you sweat more than the main questline and that goes along with the idea that you are training hard to overcome your enemies.
Like most rhythm games, you are going to be having a pretty arm-centric workout here as the way to do damage against your enemies is by hitting the orbs. I didn’t find the strength of me hitting them to be much of a factor, but when you have a goblin staring you in the face it definitely makes you want to hit that much harder, regardless if the game tracks it or not. In the training, you can amp things up and really get your arms moving fast as some of the difficulties have a rapid-fire style to how the orbs appear and this can get incredibly tiring after a little while, so be ready to stretch before getting into the thick of things here.
Your legs get involved in the action here through the use of obstacles to dodge and duck throughout each level. As the levels get tougher, these obstacles get more frequent and eventually, you will be using a combo of punches and dodging to complete your missions and some of the later ones are incredibly tough to get through and it will likely give you a solid leg workout in the process.
Core/ Balance- 8/10
Your balance during the entirety of your gameplay is as important as anything here as it can get pretty tough to remember your place in the room once things get intense, so make sure you know your place at all times. Your core can get a solid involvement here specifically during the harder training levels as the amount you’ll be keeping low to the ground will be pretty frequent and after a while, this creates a pretty solid burn that you’ll appreciate at the end of your workout.
While it’s not the most polished title., Akyrikon gives you a really fun and different feeling experience that will push you to get to the next level just to see what’s going to happen with the quirky story going on and what new enemy you will end up facing. The graphics here are modest, so you won’t be getting lost in any visual experience here, but for some short sessions at around 30 minutes each, Akyrikon is a fun diversion and a new kind of experience in the workout game genre that will keep you invested for quite a bit.
Akyrikon has some interesting ideas at play for sure, but after you finish the campaign, the only real option is to replay missions using newly unlocked abilities or perhaps engaging in the training sessions. The problem with that is this is definitely not the best rhythm game out there. Once you strip away the different enemies that you fight and quirky narration scenes that break up the action, you are left with a VR rhythm game that is definitely raw and doesn’t really stand out amongst the crowd in any defined way. The story mode and the dichotomy of training and fighting is the main pull here, but once that’s over, you’re left with not much else to entertain you and it won’t be too long until you’re onto your next game.
Fitness Scalability- 7/10
This game basically scales with you as you play it, so you won’t ever have to worry about scaling it for your workouts. Depending on the level that you’re at in-game, the battles against the monsters can be incredibly tough or a breeze. If you train a ton before going against the enemies, then you will likely dominate the game. This training though is going to be incredibly tough physically, so you actually feel like you’ve earned your victories after leveling up from it. If you want to just sweat relentlessly without having to deal with much else, then the training modes will keep you plenty busy here, so even those seeking the most intense cardio workouts will have plenty to like here.
Dizziness/ Nausea- 8/10
I noted earlier that this is a bit of a rough experience at this point and that’s definitely true, but it did not affect my experience all that much when it came to VR sickness. You will be moving extremely fast at times during this game, but aside from some choppiness in the action on occasion, the gameplay was never too overwhelming as to make me feel nauseous at all. The highest difficulty training modes are intense too and the only times I felt a little queasy was when I was forced to dodge under constant obstacles behind thrown at me. Other than that, it was pretty smooth sailing.
Social Competition- 0/10
Akyrikon was not designed to support any multiplayer from the looks of it and despite it still being in Early Access, that does not mean this feature is coming any time soon. Perhaps a leaderboard of sorts might appear at some point, but for now, it’s strictly a single-player experience.
VR Fit Score- 7.7/10
Game Score- 7/10
Akyrikon gives us a glimpse at how the VR rhythm game genre might one day evolve. It has a fun little story mode complete with an actual story and is supported by an entertaining cycle of training and fighting and unlocking abilities. The different environments give the feeling of progression and the training levels are intense and really make you earn your new levels. The ability to use music from the game or music from your own computer is a nice touch and adds a nice amount of customization to the proceedings. You can tweak the difficulty in any way you’d like to make things a bit easier or harder for you depending on how the game is going for you.
It is not the longest experience right now, but keep in mind that this is only an Early Access experience and we are anticipating much more content to come from this one. The graphics are a bit on the rough side, so if you were hoping for a VR rhythm game on par with the visual mastery of say Beat Saber, then you will likely be left wanting. The rhythm game within is not all that entertaining when left on its own, so once you finish the brief story mode, you might find yourself looking elsewhere for your VR rhythm game entertainment.
Akyrikon is available on Steam for $4.99 and playable on Windows Mixed Reality, Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, Valve Index, and HTC Vive headsets.