DEEMO -Reborn- review (PSVR)

Rayark’s Deemo was just reborn as a PS4 title with Playstation VR support. It’s appropriately called Deemo -Reborn- and it’s a wonderful rhythm-based title.

I had only heard of Deemo by reputation so far – it got excellent reviews on the Nintendo Switch when it was released there back in 2017, and the original mobile release was equally well liked. Deemo Reborn honors that reputation with a glorious new version, although it does away with some of the things that characterize the original releases – for better and for worse.

Starting off with the positive, this particular version of Deemo ramps up the audiovisual aspect of the game and does away with its mobile roots – this isn’t just an HD upgrade of an existing game, but a reimagining of it. The game features a beautiful 3D world for you to navigate that can best be described as dreamlike – and this works especially well in VR. In it, you solve puzzles that unlock access to music sheets, and playing the music tracks associated with them grants you access to more of the game world.

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This makes for an interesting loop, and essentially cuts the gameplay in half. I realize this might alienate players who aren’t interested in one of the two parts, but since Deemo is welcoming to casual rhythm game players I found it to be a nice mixture of genres. There’s a practical reason why you’re navigating this dream world as well though, and it’s that Deemo Reborn is a narrative-driven adventure – something that’s most definitely rare in the music game genre.

Story-wise, the tale matches the visuals in that it’s all very dream-like. You’re Alice and you’re trapped in a magical tree. You encounter the mysterious entity that is Deemo, who has the power to make the tree grow taller and thus help Alice escape from the dream world. This is where the rhythm-based portion of the game comes in, where you control Deemo and play one of the game’s many pieces of piano music to help conjure up some of your magic. This is an area where Reborn has stripped something else from the previous games though, as Deemo Reborn features far less music than the Switch version did – though it still sports a staggering number of tracks (over 80, which is far more than any recent music game I can remember).

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The rhythm portion of the game can be played as a fairly traditional experience where notes come down across the screen and you hit the right button at the right time, but it’s infinitely more fun to play this in VR if you have the chance. Here, you play a virtual keyboard inside of a virtual space, and you’ll need a bit of time and practice to get the hand-eye coordination down. Once you do, it’s not just an audiovisual feast but also a great way to experience the sensation of actually playing an instrument even when you’re not.

As I mentioned before, Deemo -Reborn- is a very accessible title, and even the songs that were classified as being ‘hard’ felt doable – something I can’t say was true for me in some of the old Guitar Hero games. It takes a bit of getting used to the controls (either the gamepad mapping or the Move controls), but when everything clicks this is a joy to play – and definitely recommended as a VR experience. The mix of genres works very well as a campaign experience, but after completing it (or when showing it off to others) you also want to just jump into the music and not bother with the puzzle adventure bits. As long as future Deemo development takes that into account, this is one to keep around.

Score: 8.3/10

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