Having only been with VR for just coming up for a year, I’m still in the space of enjoying experimental tools in VR. An experimental tool is exactly what ArtPulse is but it doesn’t quite live up to its taglines or expectations with its limited scope and barebones sandbox implementation. At least on PSVR anyway.
ArtPulse is a musical VR sandbox where you paint musical shapes that pulse to the music. There are six tunes and they are broken down into instrument layers. If you choose to draw cubes from your palette, they will kick in drum loops for example. Draw one big cube and you’ll get a bit of the drum loop but draw several and the loop fills out to be busier and more complex – especially when you change the colour. Although you have free range on the colour palette picker, the sound is divided into six shades so picking a red cube will give a different drum sound that a yellow one or a blue one. In theory. I personally ended up going for the rainbow colour which switched randomised colours every click and I found that more fun.
Once you’ve got a few shapes down, you’ll feel like you are painting music, especially with the painting tubes that make synth noises as you flick your arms around. Shurikens are fun for adding one-shot effects similar to Electronauts too. You can then move around the sandbox area like a robot driving a human so you can paint out your 3D space. The controls work just like most art creation VR projects and they mainly track and handle well on the PSVR version that I purchased.
So far so good but then the whole premise comes falling down quickly.
The six songs are more like six phrases and so you’ll be listening to repetitive melodies over and over again. There is also a limit as to how many shapes you can have going at once of course. As you add more, old ones disappear and get replaced or if you’ve left the destruction timer on (which is on by default) after about 2 minutes, shapes start to explode or shatter on the floor thus removing your mix. The other frustrating thing is that you are just turning on and off sample loops – you aren’t really creating music as you aren’t changing the musical phrases themselves. That in itself is fine if the songs evolved but they don’t, they just riff repeat. Almost admitting that your time here is wasted, there isn’t a save facility either to keep anything you’ve ever made.
Outside of this, there is a viewing mode where you can enjoy lots of shapes pulsating and smashes around you which is ok for a few minutes as it shows you that ArtPulse can look pretty if you get fully into it but I couldn’t see why I’d ever want to… and I’m a music game lover. To me, this needed a save feature, the ability to edit loops in detail on a loop or a proper task-based mode. Without any of that, ArtPulse is just an impressive technical showcase that does absolutely nothing with its potential. There is something here though – it just needs some heavy redefining.
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