Electronauts is the latest VR experience to come our way from Survios, creators of acclaimed VR hits like Raw Data and Sprint Vector. Out now for all major VR platforms, we played it on Playstation VR with a pair of Move controllers.
There have been a few publishers so far who have consistently been putting out VR releases that are both diverse in nature and high in quality. Ubisoft comes to mind with Bridge Crew, Eagle Flight and Werewolves Within, and I’ve also enjoyed what Zen Studios has done so far. I would definitely place Survios on that list as well though, since Raw Data and Sprint Vectors are two of the best examples of what VR has to offer – and Electronauts isn’t too far behind.
It’s an entirely different beast though, and it taps into the fascination that people nowadays have with electronic dance music DJs and producers – much like the DJ Hero games did during the heyday of the Guitar Hero/Rock Band craze. Electronauts isn’t necessarily a rhythm-based game though, and I would even struggle to call it a game at all. It’s more like a sci-fi VR DJ simulator than a game, but if you’re into the musical genre that’s represented then that’s more than okay.
Electronauts features forty licensed tracks for you to play with, which includes The Chainsmokers, Tiesto and Krewella as the most internationally known artists on offer. Don’t expect a Guitar Hero-like tracklist in terms of hit songs and classics – Survios isn’t Activision in terms of a licensing budget, and a game like this doesn’t need it either. It’s not about the songs themselves – it’s what you make of them through your own actions. In that sense, it’s probably good that I had a bunch of unknown tracks to play with, rather than classics I couldn’t even begin to improve.
The other major difference with a game like DJ Hero comes from the actual gameplay – where VR shows its power. DJ Hero relied on a plastic turntable with a few buttons to allow you to interact with the music, but Electronauts – through VR – can offer you a whole range of tools to play with. Divided among multiple stations are tools you can use to edit, splice and tweak the music to your heart’s content. Want easier access to certain tools, or swap them out for others? You can do that too, which definitely adds to the replay value and the number of ways you can experience Electronauts.
You’ll still find yourself tapping to the beat (your Move controllers turn into drumsticks that you use to interact with your environment), but it’s not to keep a multiplier or streak going. Instead, you’re directly interacting with the music – which is surprisingly addictive as well. Remixing songs also means you can change the order in which different sections of each track occur and re-occur, and how you transition between them. You make a song as monotonous as your friends might call every single EDM song, or so diverse that you’re completely lost as to where in the song you are.
Visually, you’re portrayed by a DJ avatar inside the game, which has a futuristic look and feel to it. Since you’re also rocking a helmet of sorts, it’s a bit like Daft Punk VR. The background moves to the beat of the music, bringing back memories of the classic PC title Audiosurf that I’ve spent a ton of time with. Unlike Audiosurf though, you can’t create tracks with your own imported music here. What you start with is what you get, and even if you’re into electronic dance music it doesn’t mean it’ll be up your alley.
Electronauts is a ton of fun to play, though your enjoyment will depend on how much you like the musical style represented here. For me, it was awesome to play with a Tiesto version of a song I first heard over 20 years ago – and then put my own spin on it. You don’t have to be a musical genius either – Electronauts is easy to pick up and very forgiving, and the software will make sure your changes mesh smoothly with the existing beat and melody. It’s actually harder to ruin a song than to change it, which is where Electronauts becomes a way better choice than the average sampling/sequencing software you can get.
As such, Survios’ latest walks a thin line between game and simulation and ends up being a mesmerizing game if you enjoy electronic dance music and wouldn’t mind taking a stab at producing it yourself. Those who aren’t in that crowd will quickly wish they had different tracks to play with or the ability to import their own, so check out the tracklist before you buy. If you enjoy the tracklist, you’ll positively love this experience – it’s a lot more fun and engaging than Guitar Hero ever was with its music. I would have personally enjoyed tracks from the likes of Armin van Buuren, Alan Walker, Ferry Corsten, Paul van Dyk, Rank 1, Push, Chicane or Andrew Rayel – but I get the licensing nightmare that that would have entailed – and Electronauts in its current form has a friendly price tag. Let’s hope it does well, so we see more like this in the future.