Falling Into the Rhythm of Audio Trip VR

One of the fun things in VR is seeing the prevalence of music games.  Beat Saber may be king of the hill but titles like Audica, Soundboxing, Airtone, McOsu and several others have carved out their own spaces.  It doesn’t take a lot to make playing with music fun and one of the advantages of VR is that the activity doubles as a nice aerobic workout.  Audio Trip is a new music game coming out this fall that leans in to the movement aspect, featuring note tracks designed by a dance choreographer to play perfectly with the beat.  The game recently showed off a hybrid gameplay trailer featuring players with much better footwork than I could hope to pull off, swiping away the notes as they streamed down the course.  I’ve been playing an early version of Audio Trip for the last week, and despite my lack of fancy feet, it’s every bit the dance-off shown.

The tutorial is quick and easy, going over the four note types before starting the barrage.  The little triangles, orange for the right hand and purple for left, just need a touch from the controller to register with no punching or swiping required. The long sustains need you to hit the start and end point, but falling out in the middle is OK even if it lessens the score a little.  The other two notes are the ones that take a hit, with the big triangle wanting a punch while the flat drums require a downward strike.  Hit all the notes, avoid the barriers, take home a nice 100% success rating.  In practice Beginner is all touch, hold and dodge moves, and Regular doesn’t do much with the punchier note types until the later tracks.  Expert might have a more robust mix of note types but the labels aren’t kidding around, with even Regular songs requiring some practice to complete.  Audio Trip is about dancing, dancing is about movement and keeping the player moving requires throwing lots of notes their way.  Audio Trip‘s Regular difficulty is Beat Saber‘s Hard, providing a nicely satisfying workout once you fall into its rhythm.

The heart of a good music game is its note patterns and Audio Trip‘s are uniformly excellent.  The hand movements have an incredibly fun flow to them, and while sometimes it seems like pure chaos it all makes complete sense after a round or two.  The first song, for example, features a pair of notes low on either side, requiring hands at the waist, and then raises the orange right-hand notes high while purple left hand flies over to the right side just below, then the same pattern again reversed, then repeats the whole string a few times as the beat goes on.  I failed this several times in a row before I didn’t, and after that it was easy.  A more advanced song has a string of fairly easy drumbeats followed by swooping long sustain notes that curve around barriers you need to dodge with your head, before heading in to a series of beats where the left hand remains high while the other rises up to hit a touch-note on the left before dropping down to the right side to pound the drum, back and forth then reversing sides to a steady hammering beat.  It’s hugely fun to move to, with the disclaimer that you will be working up a sweat after a song or two.

At the moment the beta is still small, featuring nine songs total, but the developer is taking requests (come on, TxK‘s Noise Pulse!) and talking to artists to boost that significantly over the course of the Early Access run.  Each song comes with tracks for all three difficulty modes, as well as a trimmed-down version for a quick hit lasting between ninety seconds to two minutes.  There’s also an easily-accessible no-fail mode, plus a comfort mode that puts a tube around a good-sized section of the track.  While the course itself is a conveyor belt bringing notes your way, each song has its own set of effects drifting by in the background and the tube makes it so the motion-sick-susceptible have nothing to worry about.  It’s not like the track twists and turns or anything, but better to have a safety-net than not.

While it follows the standard music-game formula fairly closely, what sets Audio Trip apart is how incredibly kinetic the whole experience is.  Sure, VR music games are active, but Audio Trip is aiming specifically at being as fun to hit the beat as to move to it.  There’s a lot more music to come, plus a whole load of features and polish, a level editor that lets you create your own choreography (but not to custom music, because like every music game creator they like not being sued into the stone age) and other features and tweaks such as hopefully a star ranking that’s a little less generous.  Right now, though, even in its early stage Audio Trip is one of the best music games out there and with a bit of work has the potential to take the top spot.