VR Rhythm games have become the single most played and made games in VR right now. It’s a bit of a surprise because, before Beatsaber, you really saw mostly sports games, shooters, and slashers coming out in the VR world. Since that epic moment in VR history though, we’ve gotten a deluge of new games in the rhythm genre. Each one familiar feeling, but always unique in some way in order to differentiate themselves from the pack. You’ve got ones with unique themes like Kongfusion which put a combat spin on rhythm games and then ones like Audioshield which gave us an incredible soundtrack and a whole different aesthetic to play with as well. It is difficult, however, to keep seeing these rhythm games and not start to feel jaded when they don’t exactly pop out with something new or original.
That is the situation that Brain Beats is in. While it pitches itself as a more meditative and relaxing rhythm game, there is not a whole lot of support for either of those features. What it ends up being is a visually appealing rhythm game that just doesn’t even try to do anything new and because of that gave me little reason to continue after I’d see all there was to see. The pitch of the game is to “Beat the Stress.” But unfortunately in beating the stress, it also created the boredom.
The setup for Brain Beats is simple, you have a choice of over 25 songs at launch and you’re given exactly two modes of difficulty in slow and normal. I get that this isn’t trying to Beat Saber and have you flailing all over the place like a psychotic octopus, but still, the challenge here is nonexistent. The choices from music are relax, energy, and adrenaline, which is a unique way to categorize for sure, but despite the choices here, every single track in the three categories produces completely random beat maps. That means if you’re trying to memorize a tough track to get a perfect score, you have no way of doing that because replaying songs produces completely different beat maps so there’s no real rhyme or reason to what you’re seeing on screen. The relax option for music provides some very calming, zen-like music that you might hear at a spa, while the energy option gives a more upbeat mix and the adrenaline a more in your face workout kind of mix. The music options are fine if unremarkable, but the challenge that usually spurs you on in games like this simply are not there right now.
What it Feels Like to Play
You’re given two options for how you’re going to be attacking the spheres coming at you. Normal fists and then a sword option activated by pressing the trigger on the PS Move. This is an interesting aberration from what most rhythm games provide and because of it, Brain Beats starts off pretty strongly. Certain orbs coming at you require that sword option and quickly switching between the two based on what’s in front of you is a fun change of pace. The workout is pretty solid as well and strictly playing on adrenaline settings definitely got a great sweat going. The relax option though is the equivalent of rearranging a bookshelf. Is that a fun activity for you? Neither is playing Brain Beats on relax. It’s supposedly there to relax the mind but it’s just pointless. The orbs come at you so slow that unless you’re playing the game while stuck in quicksand, the challenge is simply nonexistent. There is only one background as well that changes color based on the type of music you choose. That’s acceptable for Early Access titles, but this is a full release, so that excuse doesn’t work here.
What Will Keep You Playing
There are a decent amount of songs available with DLC supposedly on the way, but other than that, there are two difficulty modes, neither one too tough and a calorie counter that will at least help keep track of your workouts should you decide to make this part of your VR workout routine. Outside of that? There is nothing here that 10+ other games in the same genre haven’t done better with more options and more content. The word light is what comes to mind when thinking about Brain Beats. Light on concept, light on content, and light on fun. Now, if you’ve never played the titans of the genre, then Brain Beats might seem fine to you. But why constrict yourself to a knockoff brand when the real thing is available as well. Unless new levels, new difficulties, and a new focus of what this game wants to become happens with some kind of update, it will fall to the wayside as the titans of the genre retain their stranglehold on what’s quickly become a crowded landscape.
As with most VR rhythm games, you’re going to need a clear space in front and to the sides of you to avoid breaking anything. Brain Beats will have you work up quite a sweat too, so gym mats or something to protect your flooring from that is recommended.
I recorded my 30-minute workout with a Fitbit and a Samsung Odyssey Plus Windows Mixed Reality Headset.
Calories burned: 314
Calories burned per minute: 10
Average Heart Rate: 127
Max Heart Rate: 133
Active Minutes: 14
Brain Beats pitches itself as a relaxing type of rhythm game, and on the slow mode and relax setting it’s pretty much that, but once you amp things up to the adrenaline soundtrack, that’s when the sweat starts pouring. The action is no different than what you’ve likely experienced before in other games, but the change-up from the fists to the swords helps keep your body fully engaged and you’ll be able to move around at your leisure to get the right angle to knock out the spheres. Mentally, there is very little intensity here but because of the games’ goal, that doesn’t affect the end result too much.
While it might not be the most unique game in the world Brain Beats still puts you to the test physically as long as you’re playing on normal with the adrenaline soundtrack. Your primary form of gameplay here is going to be hitting the orbs that come at you to the beat of whatever song is playing while being on the lookout for the specific objects you must slice in half. The combo of punching and slicing works your entire arm out so you’re going to want to stretch sufficiently before you go. One thing that won’t matter though is how hard you punch as that’s not something that is tracked by Brain Beats, although you can still hit as hard as you like for the experience. The orbs come at different heights as well, so you will have to stay on your game to make sure you’re hitting each orb as it comes.
Your legs don’t really get too involved here as unlike other rhythm games, there is no ducking or dodging feature here. That being said, there’s plenty of orbs that come at you lower, so if you want, you can duck to hit them to make the workout a bit more leg intensive on your own.
Much like your legs, your core doesn’t get too engaged either here unless you decide to duck into your punches or periodically adjust your body so you’re in more of a boxing stance, that way you can get your core into the workout more. The first two song settings provide just about zero challenge as well as very little workout potential, but in the adrenaline setting, you will see some progressive burn if you stick with it long enough.
Time Perception- 7/10
Usually, a rhythm game will snap you into a zone where no matter what the challenge or workout output, you’re always pining for just one more round. This isn’t really the case with Brain Beats as the challenge quickly becomes non-existent after a little while of playing. The meditative part of the game quickly becomes boring and if that’s the reason you’re getting Brain Beats, you’re better off with games that at least provide calming, beautiful scenery to relax with rather than the same map over and over again with just slightly different backgrounds.
Three different modes, almost 30 songs, and the ability to track your workouts means if this is your chosen rhythm game, you’re going to get plenty of longevity out of the experience. The developer has confirmed there are more songs on the way, but the lack of difficulty and shoddy beat mapping definitely keep this one from being infinitely replayable in the way its contemporaries have been proven to be though. If you devise a workout around Brain Beats and stick to it, you’re going to at least find some positive results and the ability to keep track of your progress doesn’t hurt either.
Fitness Scalability- 8/10
Scaling your workout in Brain Beats is actually very easy. The three different song styles effectively act as difficulty settings because the actual difficulty settings are slow and normal, and neither one makes much of a difference when it comes to using one of the first two song styles. Those are for people wanting as brief of a workout as possible and are primarily looking to just relax while reaching for orbs. The workout actually drives up a bit of a sweat when you start playing songs on normal in the third, adrenaline style and this is the way you’re going to get physical results from playing.
Dizziness/Lack of Nausea- 9/10
I didn’t find any issues with sickness while playing Brain Beats. There’s no moving track like you might see in most VR rhythm games, so that feeling of motion, while you’re standing still, is thankfully not an issue at all here. The visuals here are also quite calm and while they come at you in bright neon colors, they are never overwhelming in a way that would cause sickness. Your balance is the only thing to worry about while playing and even then, the orbs come at you on a straight path so you won’t be having to go all over the place to hit them properly.
Social Competition- 0/10
There are no social features in Brain Beats aside from the ability to track your workouts and maybe share them with friends. Because of this, it won’t be factored into the final score.
VR Fit Score- 7.5/10
Game Score- 6/10
-Unique take on the rhythm genre
-Lack of Challenge
Brain Beats is an attempt to think outside the box a bit when it comes to the VR rhythm genre. It focuses on creating more of a mellow and relaxing experience as opposed to the fast and furious times its contemporaries provide. The ability to scale your workout to your exact liking gives Brain Beats its own feel and allows it to have a place among other VR rhythm titles. The ability to track your calories makes it a solid workout tool to implement into your daily workouts.
There isn’t a ton of variety in one song to another, so that’s a bit of a problem when you’re expecting people to play this on endless loops like the games in the genre. The environment also just never changes outside of colors, so it gets very repetitive after a while when both the levels and the beat maps never really change. The challenge is among the weakest available in the genre, so this could be considering Beat Saber with training wheels.