Fans of rhythm games have likely heard of Deemo, the 2013 mobile title that allowed players to turn their phone into a piano and play along to various tracks. Thanks to the success and longevity of the game, developer Rayark has set their sights on virtual reality, and will be bringing the franchise to PSVR with the upcoming DEEMO -Reborn-.
We were able to try out the new rhythm game during PAX East recently, and while my time with Deemo was short, I came away pleasantly surprised and cautiously optimistic.
The story in Deemo doesn’t seem to have changed too much from its mobile foundation. The game still stars Alice, a little girl who is seemingly lost in a magical world. From there, you’re essentially playing music in an effort to help her get home. Where Deemo changes things up, however, is in the newer details. Unlike the mobile game, Reborn shows off everything in a completely 3D world, and by using the PS Move Controllers, you can designate where you want Alice to go.
In my brief session with the game, I was able to explore a small portion of the room that houses the piano you play in the game, and it’s clear that Rayark did a good job animating and designing everything for a VR device.
Additionally, with Reborn bringing the series to a more capable home console, there have been some added dialogue put into the game, although I wasn’t able to get a good grasp of just how different the story and dialogue will be overall. From what I gathered, however, it seems as if more effort will be placed on exploration, allowing you to see and interact with much more than you’ve ever been able to.
From a gameplay perspective, Deemo was a legitimate surprise. The original worked so well because it allowed you to simply tap along to the notes that flew by on a screen, but I was curious how things would work once I put the PSVR headset on. Thankfully, my worries were all but erased, as it actually plays very smoothly. With your Move controllers acting as hands, you play the notes much like if you were playing an actual piano. Once you select a song, you’re transported into a visualizer of sorts, with decorations all around you. As the notes of the song begin to rain down, you simply use the Move controllers to move your hands up and down and strike the notes as they come by.
While it definitely does take some time to get used to, it really is a surprisingly easy way to play the game. Thanks to the wider field of view that something like the PSVR offers, this also means that you’re covering a lot more ground than you would on a normal phone screen. It almost feels as if you’re playing on an actual piano, with the pressure of being extremely coordinated and knowing exactly where to place your hands coming into play during trickier sections of a song.
During a couple of moments in my playthrough, I actually found myself missing notes due to not stretching out far enough to hit them, which is something you don’t often see in a rhythm game and while annoying, gives things a solid sense of realism.
The songs themselves aren’t too difficult either, although there are three difficulty options (Easy, Normal, Expert) for players to choose from in case they want to test out their skills. Much like other rhythm games, a bar on the screen shows off just how much of the song you’ve completed and how accurate you’ve been, and a combo meter pops up next to the notes to track how many notes you’ve hit consecutively.
Much like the original, the music in Reborn is absolutely magnificent, and while I was only able to try out three tracks from the game, they were all incredibly composed and left me wanting to play the game for much longer than I had the chance to. The original Deemo sported a huge tracklist, and Reborn aims to give fans even more music, as an additional batch of music will be added to the VR version when it launches this year. An exact number wasn’t available, but it’s safe to say that Reborn will have a large library of tracks, and will be updated with music in the future as well.
The rhythm genre is one that’s tough to break into, and it’s not often that a game does truly well, let alone succeeds in the VR world. Thankfully for fans of Deemo and of music games as a whole, Rayark has managed to take a concept that sounded like it wouldn’t work well in VR and make it something that I can’t wait to try out again.
At the moment, DEEMO -Reborn- is a timed exclusive on the PlayStation 4, and if you want to check it out in VR, you’ll need a PSVR for the time being.