I love dancing and rhythm games. Ever since I first set foot on the candy colored metal floor of a DDR arcade cabinet I’ve been hooked. Anything that can get you interacting with some of your favorite music in a new way–and especially get you moving–is something I’m more than willing to give a shot. With the advent of VR came the perfect world for these games, as donning the headset serves to further immerse you in the music and, if you’re like me, make you a little less self conscious about flailing around frantically trying to hit every note. Audio Trip bills itself as a “definitive” VR dance game, using songs from popular artists and choreography from professional dancers to “get you up and moving.” It features dynamic backgrounds and a combination of different types of actions to create its dance-like feel.
Stepping into the world of Audio Trip is pretty familiar. You’ll be faced with a song list and a few settings in a cavernous arena environment. At early access launch, there are 10 different songs available by artists like Lady Gaga, Skrillex and deadmau5. Audio Trip features two different game modes—Quick Trip and Full Trip. In Quick Trip, you’ll play a truncated version of the song, and in Full Trip, you’ll be challenged with the full length of the track. There are three difficulty modes, too—beginner, regular and expert.
In Audio Trip, you’ll use a geometric neon version of your controller to simply hit the various notes, indicated by matching neon arrows and symbols. There are a range of mechanics involved, some familiar from things like Beat Saber, like barriers, or having to make contact with the notes in the direction the arrows indicate or sort of swipe into certain special notes, and some that come more directly from rhythm games like Guitar Hero such as slams and ribbons (long runs that require continuous contact with a drawn out pattern.) Where Audio Trip really stands out though is its choreography. Movements flow naturally from one to the next, well tailored to each individual song’s style and vibe, and seem strangely intuitive and very enjoyable once you get in the groove. There’s even a certain attitude inherent with some of the motions that makes it feel more expressive.
Something that helps you understand the dance style and choreography is the AI assistant, “Goldie.” If you turn her on, she’ll stand in front of you as you play each level, performing the actions you’ll need to perform just slightly before you need to, giving you an idea of what the dance would look like if executed perfectly. I thought this would be distracting, but it turned out Goldie’s unobtrusive enough to simply serve as a guide you can quickly glance at for pointers, like adding a tap step in between your dodges within a line of barriers, which helps you keep time and feel just a little bit more like a real dancer.
My biggest criticism of Audio Trip is the level of difficulty. Even on beginner, levels are devilishly hard. Audio Trip doesn’t gradually introduce mechanics, either, so you’ll need to be prepared for some of the harder mechanics like long ribbons or crazy runs right away. Failure happens pretty fast, with a pretty low margin of error allowed before you’ll have to start over. There’s almost no learning curve, and at least in the beginning, I found myself turning on No Fail just to be able to experience enough of each song to get a feel for things. Audio Trip’s pace is relentless and higher difficulties are likely to keep me busy for a long time.
Audio Trip certainly excels at getting you up and moving around–for better or worse. On the up side, it makes Audio Trip a fantastic workout- one of the best I’ve experienced in VR, in fact. Unfortunately, it can also cause problems. In Beat Saber there’s a marker to indicate where you should be standing, but there’s no such cue in Audio Trip, and it’s sorely missed. Sometimes while I’m moving around, trying to match the notes and dodge barriers, I end up wandering from center–and flailing dangerously close to objects in real life.
The music Audio Trip has managed to get is great. While perhaps not full of the latest hits, it is full of prominent artists and some of their best songs. There are only ten songs at launch–but being an early access title, we can hope for more in the future. Art, too, is good, with varying backgrounds tailored to each song making for a little more visual interest, and a sort of kitschy 80’s/90’s aesthetic adding a little bit of fun.
Audio Trip is a pleasant surprise. Despite the difficulty level even at entry skewing so high, no matter how many times I failed a song, I wanted to come back to it. And despite my skepticism about how “dancey” things could feel, the choreography really does stand out, and I did feel more like I was legitimately dancing with Audio Trip than I have almost anywhere else. Movements are fun, energetic and flow, and there’s even a little bit of room for flair. As a cardio workout, too, Audio Trip shines, with fast paced music and stylish motions that make it pure fun instead of a grind, and keep you going long past when you’d have given up on a workout video. It’s challenging, unique and fun, and I will certainly keep it in rotation among my top favorite VR titles.
Audio Trip released for Early Access today on Steam and is compatible with Vive, Index, Rift, Rift S and WMR.
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