VR rhythm game Synth Riders sees players enter a neon-chrome playspace inspired by the '80s and move their bodies to hit notes in time to the synthwave soundtrack, all in a way that's conducive to dance. This has seen the game garner a cult following and allowed the team to support its community with significant post-launch content free of charge. We spoke to Synth Riders' Abraham Aguero about all this and more.
Having just expanded the soundtrack from 16 to 21 songs and introduced a suite of new modes, all via a free update, what are your plans for continued support moving forwards?
We have more music packs lined up as we move forward. We are big believers in giving our fans great value for money, so our plan for the moment is to bring more content to the game, while keeping with our current pricing. However, we also intentionally wanted to help foster a community both in terms of beatmap editors and game modders. We get a lot of great feed from both of these communities who love the ease with which they can create their own tracks or modify the game. This in turn helps us get greater awareness and greatly helps expand the experience of the game.
Courtesy of the same free update, Synth Riders is now the first game to feature native integration of the YUR.fit software - how does it feel to help keep people in good health whilst they enjoy playing the game?
I think this is a huge evolution for Synth Riders. We were approached by Cix Liv, who not only co-founded YUR.fit, but also the in-game video streaming technology, LIV. Cix noticed the number of Streamers who played Synth Riders and recognized the synergy between playing the game and losing weight. We have always been interested in exploring this VR fitness niche, but Cix is building a whole business around it.
He has a great clip on Facebook that summarizes his vision for VR fitness, which he believes is a game changer because it combines fitness and fun. Players who enjoy active games like Synth Riders or Beat Saber are actually improving their health while they play. YUR.fit now helps these enthusiasts understand the degree to which they are burning calories. Synth Riders is stoked to be working so closely with Cix and his co-founder Dilan who have really helped us on a number of strategic and marketing levels.
Was the fitness element a consideration when development started, or more a happy side effect of the game’s involved motion controls?
Well music and dance was always a central component of our game. From our perspective we wanted our fans to have fun and get fit. YUR.fit wants fans to get fit and [have] fun. There is a subtle difference but the two are very closely linked.
Does the success of Beat Saber - a game with which yours shares many similarities - mostly excite or concern you? Is there something which really sets Synth Riders apart from the competition?
This is a question that we get asked a lot. Many people who had not heard about Synth Riders immediately think we are just jumping on the Beat Saber bandwagon. The reality is that we were both developing our games at the same time. Beat Saber came to market about two months before us and it wasn’t until they emerged that we realized the game existed. Personally, I think Beat Saber is a great game. At this stage whatever helps enhance the industry is great for everyone, so to be compared with Beat Saber is a compliment.
When it comes to the differences between our games I think it boils down to fighting a foe or dancing with a partner. The fundamental difference can be found in the titles of the game. Beat Saber plays off the word beat, which references the rhythm element of the game, but also the boxing component. You [literally] have to beat the game with your saber. With Synth Riders you are drawn into a dance. Because your hands are transformed into orbs [(instead of sabers with some range to them)] it forces you to move more of your body. Once you begin to master our game you really have to be dancing, you are playing with the game, as if it is a dance partner, you are not opposing it.
You’re currently working on an Oculus Quest release; how’s that coming along? Also, do you have any plans to bring the game to PlayStation VR in the future?
We have done a lot of work getting the game ready for Oculus Quest and if you ask our team it’s pretty much ready to go. We are just waiting for the greenlight from Oculus. When it comes to demoing the game, working with Quest is a breeze because the set up is so simple. Because our game is so active the fact that Quest doesn’t have any wires or cords frees up the player and helps them really get lost in the game, which is huge.
In regards to PlayStation VR, we have been approved as VR game developers and are hoping to have the game on PlayStation by mid to late fall.
As previously mentioned, you’re currently in Early Access - when can we expect to see the full release?
Our plan is to come out with a full release by this summer, when we will have more songs to offer and some other exciting developments, which are currently under wraps. But stay tuned. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Thanks to Abraham Aguero for taking the time to answer our Synth Riders questions!
Check the game out on Steam, the Oculus Store, and Viveport if you're looking to have some fun whilst working on your fitness. Oculus Quest and PlayStation VR fans should also keep their eyes peeled for Synth Riders' impending release on both platforms.
For a chance to win 1 of 5 Synth Riders Steam keys, enter our giveaway.
With Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled right around the corner and Team Sonic Racing just in the rear-view mirror, kart racing games are currently enjoying somewhat of a resurgence. You can’t beat these classic kart racers in our eyes, though.
Look at that hectic, team-based goodness!
Chris | Mortal Kombat: Armageddon - Motor Kombat
Whilst Mortal Kombat: Armageddon's Motor Kombat isn't a fully-fledged kart racer, it does have all the necessary traits to qualify, including the use of a K where a C would suffice. Mechanically, it plays just like a toned-down version of Mario Kart (which one might expect from a mini-game which is, essentially, a toned-down version of Mario Kart), with death traps, shortcuts and power-ups.
There are ten available characters to choose from, each with their own special ability that can be unleashed after grabbing a pick-up, similar to more child-friendly titles starring plumbers. These abilities are based on the characters' special attacks; Scorpion drags an enemy back with his spear, Sub-Zero freezes someone, Johnny Cage lobs a useless ball of green goo… you get the idea.
The limited number of tracks and racers would work against Motor Kombat if it was a full release, but as a side activity in a fighting game, it's perfect for some light relief between bouts. The one criticism I could throw its way is the choice of racers - in a game featuring just about every Mortal Kombat character of its time, having Bo' Rai Cho as one of the featured ten is baffling.
Everyone's favourite character is in the back there.
Liam | Mario Kart DS
One of the best Mario Kart DS features - apart from being a great accompaniment to the footy - was the ability to play local multiplayer matches (albeit with limited tracks) with only one copy of the game.
As cash-strapped teenagers relying on handouts and birthday windfalls, this was a godsend back in the day. It allowed me and my few DS-owning friends to compete in epic tournaments without having to splash out on multiple copies of the game.
It was also the only entry in the series where you could add a self-designed emblem to your kart, introducing a personal touch to proceedings. I'm still rocking the badge I came up with nearly 14 years ago (based on a private joke between me and my brother) and whenever I boot up the game and see it splashed across the front of Luigi's bonnet, it always elicits a childish smirk.
Its age, plus the fact it wasn't a full home console release, might make it easy to forget, but some of the biggest features we take for granted in modern entries - re-imagined retro tracks, alternative kart designs and online multiplayer - debuted in Mario Kart DS, making this unassuming entry a pioneer in the series' history.
Mario Kart: Teaching kids to dodge oncoming traffic since '92.
James | Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
I've been playing Mario Kart for years. From the twists and turns of Toad's Turnpike to the cunning boost shortcuts of Dry Dry Desert, the quintessential kart racer has brought many fond memories. If only there was some way to revisit them all in the same game...
Thanks to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, you can do just that, hopping into the two retro courses mentioned above along with fistfuls of others, including classics from as far back as the SNES!
This entry isn't just a nostalgia-fuelled victory lap though, also boasting plenty of new courses alongside new features like auto-drive and auto-accelerate, finally making Mario Kart fool-proof for even the youngest of Nintendo fans. Like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate after it, there's a whole host of characters here as well, including the Bowser kids nobody’s ever even heard of.
The easily shareable, totally authentic driving experience of playing multiplayer with just a single Joy-Con (clipped into a plastic wheel holster, if you're a true pro) makes Deluxe tons of fun across both conventional races and a host of battle modes.
Put your foot down now, ladies and gents, 'cause this one leaves its competition in the dust.
Mario Kart 8 introduced elements from The Legend of Zelda for the first time.
Rob | Mario Kart 64
This one’s an easy choice for me: Mario Kart 64 stands atop the infamous Choco Mountain, far above all other karters.
Playing solo had its share of lovely moments, but multiplayer is where the game really shines. I grew up sharing a room with my boisterous older brother, and when we weren't mimicking WWF (WWE) wrestlers at home, we were playing Mazzer Kart 64.
Grand Prix's were always a highlight, as we struggled to muscle each other and AI out of the way, off the track completely, or into unfortunate obstructions like penguins, gofers and crabs. Every now and then my younger sister would join in as well, as together we attempted to exact revenge on older bro for whatever shitty nicknames he'd given us that week.
It also came in handy on a night out a few weeks ago, when yours truly was challenged to a race by a rather menacing drunk at a bar in Brighton. Thankfully, he was dispatched so beautifully that he calmed right down and offered to buy me a pint!
Moral of the story? Mario Kart 64 isn’t just for 1997 - it's for life.
Split-screen Mario Kart 64 holds fond memories for many.
Which is your favourite kart racer? Is it another Mario Kart game, or something more exotic? Let us know in the comments.
Telefrag VR is a no-nonsense 1v1 arena shooter boldly said to deliver "what other studios are afraid to touch". Set in a world where futuristic gladiators fight for the glory of a Roman Empire which never fell, inspired by greats like Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament, Polish developer Anshar Studios are aiming to bring a frenetic and competitive FPS experience to virtual reality whilst preserving player comfort.
Do you worry that the fast pace and gravity-defying movement might cause motion sickness in some players? Have you found that basing movement on dashes and teleportation, rather than smooth locomotion, helps to prevent that?
Thanks to Detached, we understand the motion sickness problem very well. On the basis of these experiences, we decided to implement in Telefrag VR the so-called dash movement, which aims to reduce the problem, while maintaining the dynamics of the game, which is our priority. However, during the open beta on Steam, players clearly indicated that they expect us to add smooth mobility as an alternative. The request for smooth mobility came from a group of hardcore players. So to keep the . . . accessibility, but also give space to be better and more open for involved players, we've added a second mode of movement!
I think the fact that players from the beginning have an alternative to the movement and that the game itself is built (maps, gadgets) to eliminate the effects of motion sickness is the best form of counteraction and we feel that we have done everything we could to make players feel comfortable.
Telefrag VR revolves around 1v1 deathmatch duels, but would you ever consider upping the player count and/or introducing additional modes like capture the flag?
The most legendary and exciting ([due to] the high stakes) duels in Quake 3 Arena were 1 vs 1. We decided that we would like to submit a tribute to this form of rivalry through our game. In addition, there are design considerations related to VR itself. We do not want the player to feel overwhelmed by the number of stimuli in Telefrag VR, our goal is to make the game fun from the beginning. At the moment we do not have plans for adding new modes, we are completely focused on the essence of our game: intense 1 vs 1 arena shooting.
Big, elaborate weaponry is central to any classic arena shooter, and so far you’ve showcased three guns which meet that expectation, but will there be additional weapons in the final game?
As you rightly noticed, the rich, interesting arsenal is one of the basics of FPS games. It will be the same in our game.
There are two more weapons ahead of us. The first of these is the Laser Pistol, which is the perfect weapon for all those who value precision. So if you loved Rail Gun duels in Quake 3, then this is definitely a weapon for you. The last weapon from our arsenal is [the] Particle Cannon – this weapon shoots a straight, continuous lightning bolt punishing anyone foolish enough to stand out in the open. Come in too close, and the alternative mode will snap and follow you. You can thank Quake 3's lightning gun for that treatment
To sum up, in Telefrag VR, players will have five weapons at their disposal, each with two shot modes. And another one… you can use [two] weapons (one per hand) at the same time. This allows for more variety of attack during moment-to-moment gameplay. Just imagine it, shooting at the opponent with one weapon and firing the teleport with the other to change position.
We’ve only seen one map so far; can you share any information on any of the three as-yet-unseen maps you’ve teased on the Steam page?
[An upcoming] teaser which we have prepared reveals a bit behind the curtain [on] the remaining battlefields. In order not to reveal everything, but also [further tease] the secret, I will mention that the next maps after Fallen Champion, which you could see in the Announcement Trailer, will be: Mobius Villa and Lazarus Grotto.
Mobius Villa is the perfect reproduction of the ancient architecture of Rome. The traditional Roman domus contains specific elements like peristyle, atrium and beautiful sculptures on every corner. It's slightly different from Fallen Champion, [where] construction was focused on wide-open spaces. Here, we are dealing with a completely different picture of the futuristic Roman Empire - Calmness and prosperity can be seen at first glance.
Lazarus Grotto: Do you remember Dagobah from the most popular movie saga? . . . This comparison perfectly reflects what can be found on this swampy planet. Dirty wetlands arouse anxiety, so you better [not] leave the playing field. Nobody knows what can be hidden in the nearby wetlands. The arena winds around a rock formation, which allows you to fight on several levels.
But these are not all galactic battlefields. Closer to [Telefrag VR's] premiere we will reveal more.
In what ways has your previous VR game, Detached, helped in shaping Telefrag VR?
From the design side, thanks to our previous game, we have understood the problem of motion sickness and how to reduce it, as well as how to create maps to maintain the proper, but also clear dynamic gameplay.
With Detached, we've been at the biggest gaming events, thanks to which we've learned to better observe how players play and how to ask them about feedback so that they do not give us only compliments, but accurate information. The fact that our previous game for some time was in Early Access taught us how to work with the community.
Finally, thanks to Detached, we knew what we did well in the game, but also the areas in which it required better quality. In a nutshell: without Detached, Telefrag was never there!
Telefrag VR is launching simultaneously on HTC VIVE, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR with cross-platform multiplayer - does that extend to the PS VR version, or is it just between the PC headsets?
We decided on full cross-play. We really want all VR enthusiasts to be able to play with each other regardless of the platform. There is no denying that the simultaneous premiere with the cross-play function from the beginning is a huge challenge for our company, but also an exciting learning experience. Keep your fingers crossed for us, especially for the QA team!
Are there any plans for an Oculus Quest release?
I must admit that at the moment we do not have such plans. If something changes, of course, we will inform you!
Are you able to narrow the release window yet, or can we still just expect to see Telefrag VR launch at some point in 2019?
The premiere is very, very close! Telefrag VR will be released this summer, as you've noted on several platforms at the same time - this is our goal and we are totally focused on it.
Thanks to Szymon and Jakub from Anshar Studios for taking the time to answer our Telefrag VR questions.
If you're interested in their virtual reality arena shooter, be sure to wishlist it on Steam and keep an eye out for it on the Oculus and PlayStation stores.
What’s being considered a rather tame Electronic Entertainment Expo is now coming to a close, though even a slow E3 is sure to have at least a few standout moments, of which we’ve picked our personal highlights.
Liam | Nintendo Treehouse livestream
My favourite part of an otherwise disappointing E3 was Nintendo Treehouse Live. This stream offered an opportunity to see actual gameplay for Nintendo’s upcoming games, countering the deluge of cinematic trailers that made up most of their Direct presentation and all of the other shows.
I was particularly pleased to hear Animal Crossing: New Horizons will feature the full suite of same-screen, local wireless and online co-op. Being able to work together in real time rather than in shifts, as was the case for me and my deputy in New Leaf, just makes sense and will hopefully alleviate some of the more monotonous management tasks.
Despite having initially dismissed it as a gimmick, the new dungeon creator in Link’s Awakening also grabbed my attention and looks like a fun new addition to an already impressive game. It'd be even better if Nintendo let us share these creations with other players, à la Super Mario Maker, but there didn’t seem to be any mention of such a feature.
Visibly wandering Pokémon in Sword and Shield, at least in the games’ designated Wild Area, was another bit of good news from the livestream. Like many, I’ve come to dread all of the random encounters and so this is a very welcome change.
Chris | More on DOOM Eternal
DOOM as a series always failed to grab me, at least until the 2016 reboot, at which point I became immediately enamoured with its fast, fluid movement which is somewhat reminiscent of Halo. That in itself probably wouldn't be enough to keep me around, but the gunplay is just as smooth and yet incredibly weighty at the same time - then there are the gloriously explicit executions, which never get old.
Eternal boasts more weapons (and associated upgrades), abilities, enemies, executions and environments, taking us all the way from the depths of Hell to the heights of Heaven, like Dante's Divine Comedy with guns and gore in place of self-reflection and enlightenment.
Bethesda have teased that we'll discover the origins of this iteration of the Doom Slayer, and I'm eager to see if we'll be battling against both angels and demons. It's just the kind of silly sci-fi story which never fails to draw me in.
When it comes to multiplayer, I can usually take it or leave it, but DOOM Eternal’s new competitive BATTLEMODE also has me intrigued. Assuming it's properly balanced, the unique 2v1 demons vs. Doom Slayer mode could prove to be an entertaining time sink.
James | Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk?!
Matrix star and altogether nice guy Keanu Reeves is so hot right now, popping up in Netflix film Always Be My Maybe last week, Toy Story 4 next week and soon the eagerly-anticipated third Bill and Ted adventure.
What we didn't expect, but are oh-so-grateful for, was his spontaneous appearance at the Xbox E3 showcase. He graced us not just in digital form as Cyberpunk 2077’s Johnny Silverhand - keeping up the tradition of him playing characters called Johnny after both Utah and Mnemonic - but in person to the melting of timelines and hearts around the world.
While a celebrity E3 appearance isn't unheard of, it's usually Snoop Dogg smoking a spliff while trying out Battlefield, Elijah Wood trying to convince us of his creepy vision for Transcendence, or some WWE wrestlers hidden under the Microsoft stage.
Keanu was different. A perfect blend of "well obviously he's in it" realisation and a wry smile as the now-iconic silhouette of 2019 Reeves appears through mist, he not only looked the part but brought a level of excitement and enthusiasm not seen anywhere else at the event, besides perhaps Tango Gameworks’ Ikumi Nakamura at Bethesda.
When we look back on E3, Keanu will be a stand out for years to come, because he, as one eager audience member said, is breathtaking.
Rob | Breath of the Wild 2 and Spiritfarer reveals
Oh dear. This year’s E3 was a bit of a moist squib, wasn’t it. Whether it be Sony’s absence, Microsoft’s lack of interesting games - c’mon, we’ve all had enough of bloody Gears and Halo by now - or Nintendo’s sequels and remakes (Link’s Awakening does look lovely, mind), everything had an air of predictability about it.
Still, it wasn’t all bad, and Bethesda probably fared best in my eyes. DOOM Eternal looks to continue the glorious, frantic shooting of 2016’s DOOM, whilst GhostWire: Tokyo’s teaser left me exceedingly intrigued. Conspiracy? Check. The occult? Check. Shinji Mikami? Check. This one can’t come along quickly enough!
Personally, though, the announcements of Breath of the Wild 2 and Thunder Lotus’ Spiritfarer are the indistinguishable highlights.
The former is self-explanatory: I’ve been a huge Zelda fan for as long as I can remember and thoroughly enjoyed running around Breath of the Wild’s rendition of Hyrule, so cannae wait to get stuck into another predictably top-notch adventure. Will it be the Majora’s Mask to BotW’s Ocarina?
The latter is a charming, side-scrolling 2D management game centred around coming to terms with death, where Thunder Lotus’ trademark hand-drawn visuals blend with a melancholic tale of goodbyes. It’s set at sea, you can go fishing, and there’s a sidekick cat. I’m sold.
What was your E3 2019 highlight? Let us know with a comment.
The most exciting week in gaming is right around the corner, and like curious kiddies at Christmas, we’ve been passing the time by speculating on what might happen during this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo!
Our chances of another rockin' flute performance are now slim to none, goddammit!
James | Project Scarlett is all-digital ‘Xbox Premiere’
We all expect Microsoft to talk about their new console, codenamed Scarlett, but let's make a discerning stab in the dark about the final name and their hardware strategy.
Firstly, we'll see a subscription-style model of ownership which the company has played with in the past, even if it's just for education or enterprise audiences.
There'll be a more overt link with PC, making it even easier for friends to communicate and play together regardless of hardware, with cross-play enabled by default across first-party titles.
While we all expect backwards compatibility to continue to be significant on the next Xbox, Microsoft will double down on Game Pass to double the number of backwards compatible games on the service in the next year. They’ll also allow players to access new first-party releases not just on release day, but early.
It's possible there'll be more than one hardware format, thought the all-digital version will be the standard model, and the only model they’ll be talking about at the show. It’ll be called Xbox Premiere - representing what Microsoft believes to be the future of gaming.
James expects Xbox to world premiere the Xbox Premiere to the world during E3's premiere Xbox press conference.
Chris | Yoshida and Nadella announce civil partnership
Fable 4 is practically a given at this point and rumours abound that the sole reason for its existence is to stop me endlessly banging on about Fable 4.
Another certainty is Ubisoft's batshit crazy opener, where furries dance to a song that nobody deserves to hear twice. It’d be the perfect time to go and make a coffee, if only it wasn't somehow so damn captivating.
As always, I'm anticipating big things from Bethesda, such as extended footage of DOOM Eternal which, hopefully, makes DOOM (2016) look like DOOM 3. Maybe even something on The Elder Scrolls VI - just a short teaser and the title screen would do.
The biggest news by far, however, is that following on from the news of Sony and Microsoft's strategic partnership, I'm expecting their respective CEOs, Kenichiro Yoshida and Satya Nadella, to announce a civil partnership. The gaming industry's hottest power couple will then go on to adopt Nintendo's Shuntaro Furukawa, merging all three companies in the process. Son-tendo-soft will reveal the SwitchBox Pro, much to the chagrin of Mark "PlayStation 6" Cerny.
Chris thinks things are set to hot up between this happy pair.
Liam | Sony surprise with State of Play stream
I think this year’s E3 will be more about consoles than games.
Microsoft will unveil two new Xbox consoles, along with a handful of next-gen titles, all of which will also be playable on Xbox One X, as Microsoft’s current powerhouse drops down the pecking order to become the new base console of the Xbox family. Oh, and Halo: Infinite gets a surprise winter release date.
Nintendo will confirm the existence of new Switch consoles, a premium version and a budget handheld-only version that comes bundled with your choice of Let’s Go, Pikachu! or Let’s Go, Evee! I’m also expecting a new Mario Kart reveal and ports of Twilight Princess HD and The Wind Waker HD.
Sony won’t regret not showing up by releasing a surprise State of Play stream in reaction to their rivals’ console news, giving us our first glimpse of the PlayStation 5 and some of its exclusives.
Other than all the above, which is definitely going to happen, I’m also looking forward to a first look at some Jedi: Fallen Order gameplay and confirmation that the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare reboot will include all the original multiplayer maps plus a bunch of new ones.
That’s not too much to hope for, is it?
It might be wishful thinking, but a surprise State of Play stream would certainly help placate Sam.
Rob | DOOM Eternal hurts your bum
I fully expect Bethesda to blow our collective anus to smithereens with new DOOM Eternal footage; I was a huge fan of the 2016 DOOM reboot (the only FPS I’ve finished this generation) so await the new campaign - and multiplayer - with sawn-off, double-barrelled enthusiasm!
On the Xbox front, I’m really hoping for some fresh new games to go with the rumoured new console, but half fear we’ll just be blasted with more Gears and other equally overdone first-party franchises.
Nintendo is the one that really intrigues me, though, as usual. Will their Direct presentation contain plenty of previously unannounced games? Or will it go heavy on Pokémon, Fire Emblem and the Link’s Awakening remake? I’m hopeful we’ll get at least one new first-party title, but will it be the game to finally make me swap out the old Wii U for a Switch?
All-in-all, I’m honestly not expecting a classic this year. I’m sure Ubisoft will give us Assassin’s Creed: Derby and Far Cry 406, and I’m certain EA will disappoint once again by failing to announce a new boxing game. With that in mind, it appears my hopes rest almost entirely on DOOM and Nintendo: please don’t let me down, guys.
Hold on to your butts, folks!
Keep an eye on Pass the Controller for plenty of E3 2019 coverage, including livestreams of all the press conferences.
What do you think will happen at this year's E3? Let us know in the comments below.