SynthRiders VR is a Dystopian surf ride through a nostalgic 80s with a ripping good soundtrack.
Synth heavy music pulses through your speakers. You’re on what I imagine is a surfboard floating over a dystopian nightmare vision of someone’s 80’s bedroom. A mechanical spider, the face of a CRT with static and noise, looms overhead. Before you are orbs you must blast past to victory in Synth Riders VR.
Raise your fists, the world depends on you!
Tonight! You’re burning on the edge of the fire! Taking a chance and giving it all that you’ve got! And… I’m really into the music in this game.
Hop in your Delorean and let’s blast off. We’ve got an adventure.
My Charge 2 recorded my session, and I donned a VR Cover cloth cover for sweat. No fan needed as I’m in the mid-50s where I live.
Synth Riders is a full-body workout, and it’s heavy on the upper body workout. You’ll need to take a moment to clear some space within arm’s length and make sure you can step side to side. It also moves rapidly, like you’re sliding. Those prone to motion sickness may want to skip this one.
The menu is beautiful and easy to navigate. Your “living room” contains an old PC and a gorgeous view of a Bladerunner-esque city complete with everlasting rain for mood. Everything glows neon purple because of course it does. It’s easy to find a song and a stage, with plenty of music to preview.
The aesthetic of the levels is spot on. Anyone who has spent time at r/Outrun will feel right at home here. You might even know some or most of these artists.
But what’s surprising is how polished the rhythm gameplay is. When I first played BeatSaber, I knew I’d played a serious rhythm title in VR. Synth Riders wants you to move, groove, and dance through an intense aerobic workout.
With only 13 tracks, I’m left wanting so much more. But what’s here is polished and entertaining.
I played SynthRiders for 40 minutes, and I was dripping sweat and couldn’t lift my arms by the end. My VR Cover definitely needs a wash after this.
Players alternate between left and right hands, sometimes holding both together to strike incoming targets. Most songs are between 130-160 BPM, so the game is relatively fast-paced. Pink targets use your right hand, blue uses left. Green targets can use any hand, but you must use only that hand for the green target sequence. To destroy orange targets, join your hands together.
You’ll need excellent hand-eye coordination and a good sense of balance.
Here are my stats for the session:
Avg BPM: 120
Max BPM: 143
Total Calories: 199
Players will find a variety of targets here. Some you “block” the way you might in Audioshield, others you’re able to punch. You’re also rewarded for the speed and accuracy of your strikes so punch when you can. This game is heavy on arms and shoulders, and you’ll feel a lot like you’re in every aerobics video from the 80s.
I was able to get through about seven songs, repeating some of my favorites once or twice, before I had to stop. My triceps are feeling this one.
This is a surprising leg workout. You will need to shuffle back and forth, move your waist, lunge and stretch to hit oncoming targets. Although the background is moving, I quickly find myself able to overlook it. I clocked a siginificant number of steps making side-to-side movements to hit the incoming targets. That said, players should not expect to feel like they’ve done squats. Synth Riders is heavier on cardio.
Core and Balance 5/10
I definitely feel that you can use Synth Riders as an 80s style full-body aerobic workout, and I think it was the developers’ intention. This game is great about training your balance in VR, as the platform really never stops moving during a session.
The core training comes from the full-body session you get. You will need to lunge, but not squat.
The varying difficulties make this workout easy to obtain no matter your skill level in the game. As long as you enjoy the music, you’re essentially guaranteed a workout.
Time Perception 7/10
The game time passes quickly when you’re actively playing, but you spend a lot of time in menus. Each song is around 3:30-5:00 minutes long, and it’s easy to restart a song once you’ve completed. If you want to practice a single song, the turnaround time is a lot faster.
Perhaps players will have the option to create playlists of stages in the future to reduce this problem.
I feel SynthRiders has nowhere to go but up at this point in its lifespan. It could use more tracks, but the aesthetic and the music are excellent. Give the trailer a listen to see if you can get into the music. That’s a good indicator for whether this title will grab you.
I have a slight issue with the game’s difficulty, which I’ll discuss in Scalability.
Aside from difficulty, and with more tracks, I foresee SynthRiders staying in my library alongside Beat Saber for a long time to come.
The game does have an editor, but there aren’t a lot of mods yet. Join the developer Discord if you want more up to date news on the progress of the editor, as well as some available beatmaps. The community will determine how moddable the game is, and ultimately its lifespan.
Let’s discuss difficulty. SynthRiders is a little on the easy side, but extreme is pretty tough. I was able to blind run several stages at Hard and score in the top 100, sometimes within the top 60. I admit I’m practiced in rhythm games, and VR is a growing platform, but I think the game could stand to use a bit more challenging beatmaps.
That said, extreme is legitimately difficult and a steep curve in my experience. Perhaps the developers wanted a sharper line between casual and hardcore players. This makes me excited for future beatmaps and the potential for modding.
Social Competition 6/10
SynthRiders is early in its lifespan, and the leaderboards are prone to change at higher levels. If the developers continue adding updates, I have a feeling these scores will change, and leaderboards will be alive for quite some time.
However, no competitive multiplayer yet to speak of. Excellent for sessions in your home but nothing over the internet.
VRFI Final Score 8.5/10
This game is an excellent addition to any rhythm game lover’s library and a useful fitness tool. Its motion sickness factor keeps it from perfection, but the game has a lot of room for growth. With more tracks and better load-time optimization, we think Synth Riders has lasting potential.
It’s also just plain fun, so it’s good for anyone looking to get started with VR Fitness.
A lot to like. The mood and the aesthetic feel great, and the challenge is getting there. I’m a huge fan of the $9.99 price point as it’s attractive to nearly every headset owner. It’s compatible with the Vive, Rift, and Windows MR, but nothing on PSVR yet.
The combination of punching and blocking gets intense.
A little on the easy side and it needs some optimization. I recognize Synth Riders is early access, so I hope that the game will get some optimization. I may transfer the game to an SSD to see how that improves load time, but I’m not sure that I should have to do that or that most players have the capability to do that.