If, like me, you’re not especially drawn to Electronauts’ brand of dance music, there’s a good chance you’ve already written off Survios’ latest VR app in your mind. But, having bitten the bullet and drowned myself in silky synth sounds, I’d urge you not to be so hasty.
Electronauts is like a virtual portal into a world I never really understood. In the space of five minutes it turned me from the guy leaning against the wall of the nightclub, arms folded and waiting to go home into that hyperactive dancer that’s in front of the DJ booth jumping up and down, wearing glow-in-the-dark paint and slipping a worrying amount of recreational drugs into his mouth. It’s a neon-drenched cathedral of electronic ecstasy that gives you your own little world to play Daft Punk in, and it can be quite hypnotizing.
Whereas other VR DJ apps have strived to accurately replicate the authentic experience, Electronauts feels more like a translation of the core tenants of DJing for VR, reimagining them in an accessible and engaging way. I don’t even have the slightest hint of an idea of how to arrange track on a computer, but after a five minute tutorial in Electronauts I became a music god, a lord of the beats that could do no wrong. Orbs were struck with drumsticks to produce groovy beats, grenades were tossed to explode with psychedelic audio effects and vocals were swapped around and skipped, and yet none of it ever felt like I was an amateur playing in a world I couldn’t get to grips with.
Intuition is key. Rather than teaching you the technicalities of hundreds of different features, Survios often finds the simplest means of doing the most complex things. Want to add glitches into a track? Pull up the FX cube and wave your wand around inside.
The position of your marker provides different results, and you can find the desired effect simply by sliding your controller around. Need to record your creations to put them on a loop? Simply hold down a dedicated button and your next actions will be memorized and repeated. Though it may grab the attention of enthusiasts, everything is designed to work with as little friction as possible, and it’s one of the app’s strongest points.
It’s also down to the simple fact that Electronauts is one of the slickest, best-polished VR experiences released on VR headsets this year. The app’s bright and bold colors produce a striking visual style that shines even on PSVR, and Survios’ algorithm for replicating the movement of your arms inside VR is probably the best I’ve seen so far. It’s just a shame that the game’s co-op options couldn’t make the console version, though (Survios says it could add support if there’s enough demand).
Granted the 20-strong tracklist is decidedly enthusiast, with only a few names I can recognize and a handful of which are made by the developer itself. The team is committed to bring more music to the game though and, should it find its footing, we’d love to see some more popular options. The ability to import songs and mess around with them would be a neat add-on, too.
Survios’ first step outside of the realms of VR gaming suggests that this is a developer with much more to give, then. Despite the strides it makes in accessibility, though, how much you ultimately get out of Electronauts is probably going to come down to how much you really care about mixing music. It’s an app that’s all about experimentation and experimentation naturally needs a pre-existing sense of curiosity to feed it. As an outsider, this is a fun, comprehensive distraction that gave me a different kind of VR empowerment for an afternoon, but also something I’m not itching to return to. If you’ve already made a hobby out of remixing music, though, you owe it to yourself to give Electronauts a go.
Electronauts launches on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR On August 7th for $19.99.
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