Audica combines the best of rhythm and shooting games for a unique and challenging fitness experience.
Audica started with a formula that looks a lot more like Space Pirate Trainer, then built a rhythm game around it. The game, made by Harmonix Music Systems, combines the rhythm and shooting genres in a sometimes John Woo style. You’ll be alternating which hand shoots, flicking wrists for awesome sideways shots, all while the game tests your steady aim with demanding physical gameplay.
Can you survive?
First, let’s talk about the makeup and options of Audica. Players can begin with a helpful tutorial from the left-hand side menu that explains some of the advanced concepts of the game, such as firing at vertical or multi-shot targets. The tutorial is also on-beat, so it helps you get a feel for the game and how it works. You’ve played rhythm games in VR, so alternating between hands isn’t new. What is new is the combination of melee and shooting that Audica requires.
Incoming globes must be sliced or shot at precisely the right time for max score. At its highest difficulties, the game will have you shooting and slicing simultaneously, so make sure you tackle early challenges perfectly to hone your skill.
One particularly tough track in the late game has players multi-shot two targets, then use slice incoming targets while concentrating on the multi-shot targets. You’ll need to cross your arms and flick your wrists to hit alternating colors of horizontal and vertical targets. It gets tense.
The game is early access, and fairly new at that, but already a wealth of options are available to players. From changing the colors of your blasters to adjusting response time, everything you need for a quality rhythm experience is here.
Audica is very much a “stand in place” type of game. No dodging, not much movement. The challenge is the demanding score system. The tutorial explains that players must keep their hands and arms up while firing for the best possible scoring. It offers helpful advice, such as “drops your shoulders during song breaks to prevent fatigue”.
This is all a lie.
The scoring system judges you not only on how and when you manage to shoot the target, but where your shot lands and whether your arms were up when you took the shot. Drop your arms even a little and it appears that you lose some score even for a bullseye.
In short, Audica is resistance training in three-minute bursts, with your wands/controllers as the weight. If you’re feeling particularly crazy, you can do this with wrist weights although I wouldn’t recommend it for the faint of shoulder.
My first sessions with Audica were not particularly challenging. If you’re an experienced rhythm gamer, I recommend playing each song through on moderate difficulty. Do this once, and aim for your highest possible score. Go back and redo anything you didn’t finish with near perfect accuracy.
Then crank it up to Advanced and unlock Expert.
Those seeking a true rhythm game challenge are advised to also lower the MS response time, which affects the window you have to get the highest score on your targets. You can find this setting in the options menu, with lower numbers meaning a smaller window for a perfect score.
This difficulty curve is great news for casual rhythm gamers. The physically demanding aspect of keeping your arms up at all times provides a different kind of challenge to Audica. You’re not just hitting targets, you’re trying to be precise and trying to keep your aim study while you fight with gravity.
I greatly appreciate the care that went into the adjustable difficulty in this game and feel that it’s one of the strongest points in Audica’s favor. Everyone can play it, everyone can feel like they’ve mastered it at any level.
I was definitely not prepared for the arm workout I got here. I am a VR boxing fanatic, so my arms are geared for play. Apparently, though, not my shoulders.
The resistance training you get by holding the wands in front of you, steady, for 90 to 180 seconds straight is intense. Track selection is also pretty great. More of a raver style, with a mixture of dubstep, trance, and some house music. It’s particularly nice to see tracks from artists you recognize, like Afrojack.
While you’re grooving, your arms will start to fatigue. Take advantage of the breaks between rounds to rest your shoulders and give yourself time to recoup. When I began, the most I could get was a 20-minute session. I’m still not quite up to a full hour, but I’ve managed to improve a great deal since I began.
Without any dodging, there’s not a lot of leg training to be had here. Audica is mostly an upper-body workout focused on shoulders and chest. Adopt a good stance, knees bent and slightly squatting.
You could fitness hack a leg workout with some squats in between your targets, or during the downtime of a song, but it’s hard to manage it while maintaining pinpoint accuracy. Players are advised to just enjoy the resistance training in the shoulders.
Core and Balance 7/10
Having a strong upper body helps out your posture, and builds muscle. That’s one reason so many in the fitness world love planks. Players will find an unexpected benefit to the core with Audica.
A few sessions a week of even moderately difficult songs will be enough to get fit. Audica is a rare rhythm game that provides the physical challenge at a pacing anyone can enjoy.
Time Perception 7/10
Audica is a strange kind of time machine for me. I feel like my sessions are much longer than they are, a testament to the shoulder workout I get. By the end, I can’t raise my arms!
Natural breaks in the songs are welcome after anywhere from 90 seconds to three minutes of arms up.
You’ll notice that as much as you enjoy the game, there is a physical limit to how often you can play. I haven’t hit a limit like this in VR gaming since my early sessions with Thrill of the Fight, so you can imagine the intensity is fairly high even if the heart rate isn’t matching.
I’ve spent a solid week playing Audica and I’m thoroughly enjoying it as part of my routine. It’s like lost tech that has the power to improve my upper body strength in a way that planks can, without the boredom and monotony.
Because the game is early access, I’m hoping for more songs and other goodies that will motivate me to play months from now. I’m still playing Beat Saber and Synth Riders, and I’m not even using mods. The games are just that great. I want Audica to reach this level of timeless VR rhythm classic.
Audica is a gem for scalability because it’s really easy to hack the experience as your endurance builds. You can play longer sessions, use arm weights, or try alternating the wands on your hands so every song is a different challenge.
Audica does not have multiplayer at this time, but its leaderboard is lively. Experienced rhythm and shooter gamers will find it hard to place well. I barely crack the top 1,000 on my best rounds compared to my top 20 scores in Synth Riders.
I also see a lot of Twitch handles on the leaderboards, so keep an eye out for those Audica streams.
VRFI Final Score 8/10
Audica is challenging, it’s physically demanding, but it’s got gameplay nearly anyone can find engaging.
Your shoulders will feel this workout, and you will feel your fitness improve the more that you play it. Those physical rewards couple with the rewards the game offers, in the form of tougher difficulties and achievements. Combined, you get fitness synergy: a fun game that demands you be the best you can be.
The title is early access and missing some extras that would really elevate the experience. Players already have a no-fail option for gameplay, so more remixed versions of songs (with different targets or layouts) would be welcome.
This game really needs to preview songs before you select them, but I suppose not doing so encourages me to explore the track list.
The difficulty curve also spikes rapidly between moderate and higher difficulties. Don’t jump into the hardest settings until you’re prepared.