As a video game reviewer, sometimes I have luxury of looking at a game from beyond considerations of price or value. More often than not, the games I play are from keys provided to us for review. Even so, I’m conscious of the price of video games, even if I don’t usually assign a score based on price versus time you can play, rather, I review a game based on the game’s content. Sometimes, however, a game is so egregiously short it’s definitely worth mentioning. And then other times, a game is so short it’s almost ridiculous. That’s the case here with Rhythms of the Universe: Ionia.
Rhythms of the Universe: Ionia is a virtual reality adventure game. In it, you play as Allegro as you follow your sister Allegra on a quest to help the Harpa, a creature that is the heart of the Ionian forest. There’s also a lot of time spent talking about harmonies, and music coinciding with magic. Great, I’m a musician, and I’ve never played a full-fledged adventure game with music at its core. And honestly, I still haven’t . While Rhythms of the Universe: Ionia makes a big deal about music and how the harmonies connect all things, and can even be used as a healing energy, there isn’t really that much music in the game. In fact, there really isn’t much to the game at all: it’s easily one of the shortest virtual reality games I’ve ever played. Just as I thought the game was getting started, and a character sounded like they were sending me on a new mission, the credits started to roll.
Okay, fine, it’s a short game. But I’ve played some pretty short virtual reality experiences that were worth going back into. This isn’t the case here. Rhythms of the Universe: Ionia hardly has any gameplay, and what gameplay is there is unengaging, and even a little aggravating. It definitely has some of the worst teleportation controls I’ve ever experienced. If you get motion sick, I don’t recommend playing Rhythms of the Universe: Ionia. It’s true that the only locomotion available is teleportation, so it’s baffling why most of the game you’re forced to climb (with not comfort assists) or ride vehicles.
And yes, you read that right: climbing.
If you’ve come for an immersive music game, you’ll spend more time climbing vines and ledges than doing any music puzzles—of which there are a total of three. Yep, around three proper puzzles in the entire game. They’re not difficult, and my entire playthrough took me less than an hour.
It was a mostly miserable hour, too. I mean, don’t get me wrong: Rhythms of the Universe: Ionia is a pretty game, but it has some serious control issues. The store page says its standing and sitting room, but that’s impossible. A lot of objects are outside of natural reach. I was bumping into things even in my room scale setup. It doesn’t help that the teleportation is so bad it’s hard to get close to objects. Just using teleportation is a chore as I had a hard time getting it to go where I wanted, and the game would frequently try to snap me to a location I wasn’t trying to travel to.
Rhythm of the Universe: Ionia may have gotten away with its short runtime a few years ago, right at the cusp of consumer VR. But even then, most would probably consider it too short. It is. It’s just too damn short, and it’s not even an exceptionally good short game. It has few puzzles, and could easily make those who are prone to motion sickness feel ill, since you are forced to climb and even ride vehicles without comfort assists. I’d skip this one.
A Steam key was provided to us for this review.
If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. We are the only publication in Chicago that regularly reviews video games, and we cover lots of local Chicago-based events and more. If you want to contribute to our coverage of Chicago’s video game scene (and more) please consider becoming a patron. Your support enables us to continue to provide this type of content. Patreon.com/3CR
You can also catch us streaming games we’re reviewing and staff favorites on our Twitch channel.