‘Designed by mental health experts’ can mean one of two things. It means that a game can be extremely sensitive to an issue and deal with it hopefully in a realistic manner to give the condition justice… or that they’ve completely missed the point of a game being an experience altogether. Beat Beats – the VR rhythm game for your mental health to relax – falls largely in the latter category.
Buying this on PSVR is immediately strange out of the gate. The game is sold as a standalone title yet the trophies appear as DLC add-ons for the game Mind Labyrinth VR Dreams. That game is on my to get list so the trophies will have to wait. It seems an odd choice.
Once in the game, you’ll have 27 songs across three difficulties. Relaxing mode largely uses chill out music and keeps the orbs coming towards you slow, steady and about one every two or three seconds. You have orange for the left hand, blue for the right and then larger orbs in the middle needing both hands to join together. These have two colours. Light blue are supposed to be breathing calmly orbs whilst the big orange ones are energetic ones, which only appear in the other difficulties. These other difficulties largely forget the zen attitude of the relaxed zone and function more like a standard rhythm action VR game.
Where Brain Beats does stand out from the crowd is in two game mechanics. One is great, one less so. The first is that by pressing and holding the trigger button on the move controller, your hand flicks out a knife. Here you can then swipe square blocks as they appear and then let go to switch to just hands only for the orbs. It is a great innovation which is let down purely by the fact that you don’t need to swipe at all. Instead, the game seems to recognise you’ve got the knife out and it marks the hit as correct. The second gameplay twist sounds great in theory but doesn’t work so well. Each level has the same chart placement in terms of when an orb, square block or potentially avoidable mine will come towards you. It is just the colour of them will be completely different every time you play. This means every time you play, you’ll have a slightly different experience based on the same theme. The issue with this is that if you are trying to be zen, you can’t relax into familiar patterns. As the difficulty increases, Brain Beats has no logic over what patterns feel good to play and it loves… and I mean LOVES… to make you want to swap hands like a dos-a-dos. This quickly becomes uncomfortable and awkward and Brain Beats ends up feeling like a very disjointed experience. Also – who decided to put mines in a rhythm game was going to improve anyone’s mental health?
The song selection is decent and varied from chill out to pop-rock via trance and dance. The graphics have an overuse of bokeh on them though and so playing longer than half an hour started to give me a headache. You also only play in one environment which changes its accent colour depending on its difficulty. My last complaint is that I constantly feel slightly too small in the game – like I’m standing low. Orbs often come just out of reach and I have to really stretch to hit them – sometimes missing because I hit a wall or ceiling. There is no option to rectify this and I have no issues with other games – so why here?
A few good ideas doesn’t help the fact that Brain Beats has a fair few problems. Headache inducing graphics, being way too easy and then awkwardly challenging with no middle ground and the lack of adjustable settings really hamper the experience. This has to be one of the least enjoyable VR rhythm games I’ve ever played. A shame.
A few great ideas marred by shoddy execution.
Switching from hand to blade is a great feature.
The chillout mode feels a little like doing Tai-Chi and it does strangely work.
Fuzzy graphics gave me a headache.
The random colour placement makes for awkward charts all the time.
Orb positioning seems to make for accuracy problems.
Higher Plain Games is part of the Higher Plain Network. If you like what I do, please consider supporting me via Patreon for as little as $1/£1 a month. There are additional perks for supporting me there such as behind the scenes content and downloads. You can also share the website or use the affiliate buy now links on reviews. Buying credit from CD Keys using that link means I get a couple of pence per sale. All your support will enable me to produce better content, more often. Thank you.