Rhythm Defender in practice feels a lot more like Rhythm Attacker because you’re not defending so much as punching to the beat. The title made me think of Audioshield, which I found to be less intense than some of my favorite rhythm experiences.

The game ups the difficulty and puts the emphasis on fitness: the strength of your punch determines the score you earn. Some targets come rapid fire so you need to be ready to put your full force into every punch.

The Early Access title has a built-in playlist, but the real feature is its custom song generator. Give Rhythm Defender a song from your music library and it spits out a beatmap for your workout.

Let’s dive in and see what Rhythm Defender has to offer.

Rhythm Defender Basic Setup

There are three game modes in Rhythm Defender: Practice, Regular, and Bat mode. A Quick glance at the rules tells us that we need to alternate punches based on color, striking incoming targets at full force. Laser balls can be hit with your head, so they bounce back to the ship firing at you.

Hit the incoming UFO attack ships to defend yourself.
Credit: Gameplay Studio VR

Bonus blocks break open to reveal either extra lives (super crucial), immunity from failure, or the all cleansing bat. The bat allows you to use any hand to hit any target for about 20-30 seconds. It’s a helpful item that makes more complicated stretches much easier, but it’s also randomly generated. You’ll need luck and a good flow to find them. I’ve had rounds where I get three bats in a row, and other rounds where I get immunity twice and an extra life.

Our objective is to take down the gigantic enemy ship before us with the power of dance punching! The 10-song playlist, or vanilla playlist, is full of challenging stuff that sounds like songs you’ve heard before but not quite.

Punch hard to get the full score for a target, and don’t forget to squat below or sidestep around incoming laser fire. If you miss (or get hit by lasers) 5 times, you lose so there’s a super thin margin for error here. I’ll be blunt, this game is not easy even on easy mode. You will fail a lot and it may be 30-60 minutes of playtime before you clear your first song.

This is both a pro and a con, as I’ll explore in a moment.

Rhythm Defender | The Good

I really appreciate that the team included both a male and female avatar, but I wonder why the female avatar is human and the male looks like a robot? I think it would be cool to see unlockable goodies to decorate our hero later on down the road.

The vanilla playlist isn’t mindblowing, but they make for solid workout tunes. Every track has some new kind of sound so long as you don’t mind electronic music.

Things are about to get very challenging…

Rhythm Defender has decent workout potential in its regular mode but becomes a better experience in practice or bat mode where the game is less strict about your mistakes. The difficulty is both a good and bad thing, as you can learn a song front to back the more you practice. That practice, however, takes a lot of dedication and the bar is fairly high for even those experienced rhythm gamers.

Practice really does make perfect in Rhythm Defender, so make sure to import songs you love to listen to because you’ll be repeating the intro a few times over as you climb your way to the end of the song.

Rhythm Defender | The Bad

Overall, Rhythm Defender has a lot of Early Access foibles I won’t fault the game for. Its UI looks rough, and the game needs more polish. Not a big deal because we’re so early in the roadmap.

The difficulty for me is a double-edged sword. If you want to play this game casually, practice mode is for you. If you want to see where you rank, then you must play the experience with a strict bar for failure. Down the road, players will need to do a lot of practice for songs they want to rank well for. And leaderboards only apply to the default playlist at the moment.

For me, the song import feature right now lacks follow-through. I uploaded tracks by Anderson .Paak, Jamiroquai, Ghostface Killah, and a few others. My point was to try different genres of music since we all sweat to our own beat.

Anecdotally, I was unimpressed with the custom import. The targets rarely synced with the beat no matter the genre. This can be improved, of course, but its current state allows you to punch targets while listening to your favorite music as opposed to punching targets to the beat.

Rhythm Defender Early Access Rhythm Boxing

I love rhythm titles. I think they’re essential to one’s workout and I always have something to say about them. It’s hard to talk about Rhythm Defender in a vacuum, but the game is too early in its development to make a clear comparison with the titles we all know and love already.

While BOXVR is more refined, I like that Rhythm Defender is trying to think outside the box with headers and the force of your punches. Where BOXVR feels narratively devoid, I like that you have an objective to take down the alien spacecraft invading your dance space.

This game has potential as a challenging rhythm game with fitness benefits, but I think it needs to be a bit more forgiving. Fortunately, you can correct this for fitness with the practice and bat modes available. This versatility is what keeps Rhythm Defender interesting as a new fitness title. If they can get their song import feature to get even a bit closer to the beats in a custom import song then Soundboxing may have a real contender on its hands.

The emphasis here is practice. Practice the custom songs you imported, the vanilla playlist, and when you’ve mastered them you can go for rank. Some players may find the low tolerance for mistakes a bit of a turnoff, but they have other game modes to toy with as they refine their skills. There’s a lot to offer in this base package. We’ll see if Rhythm Defender grows into itself.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhIJ5HnDddQ&w=560&h=315]