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Synth Riders (Kluge/RetrowaveVR, 2018)

As most of us know, Virtual Reality (or just “VR”) has come a long way from its roots in the 80s and 90s. The road has been rocky, and there have even been times when faith in the idea diminished, but the grander idea of

As most of us know, Virtual Reality (or just “VR”) has come a long way from its roots in the 80s and 90s. The road has been rocky, and there have even been times when faith in the idea diminished, but the grander idea of futurism has scooped up VR in modern days and seen to it that the concept survives and thrives. What began with mere toys like the ill-fated Virtual Boy has recovered from a long dormancy in the form of innovations like the Oculus Rift. Even smartphones are getting in on the deal, and the idea of fully immersive video gaming has begun to coalesce into something truly valid.

Synth Riders, a fresh new entry into the modern VR library by L.A. developer Kluge and publisher RetrowaveVR, not only calls the ante among its contemporaries but raises it. Combining familiar ideas and styles with new and inventive elements of play, this game has a lot in store for synth lovers, gaming fiends, and technophiles alike. The plot keeps things simple but engaging, and fits like a glove; in the year 2066, in a cityscape right out of one of Philip K Dick’s fever dreams, you are taking the fight to your mechanical overlords by battling them inside their electronic network, the “slipstream.” To dethrone them and win freedom for humanity, you must be fast, focused, and in harmony with the beat!

I’ve taken a good look at what Kluge has in store for us in Synth Riders, and it didn’t take me long to decide that I liked what I saw – and heard! For starters, this game bears an authentic and sincere retrowave aesthetic. The entire presentation, both visually and soundwise, drips delightfully with the theme of that 80s’ future we all yearn for. Talk about dreaming while awake! Awash with color and darkness side by side, Synth Riders has been lovingly and tastefully built as a virtual doorway into the world we were so often shown in 1908s science fiction media. The soundtrack features names you’ll recognize and who stand out in the synthwave genre – Waveshaper, Deadlife and more! It is a solid set of tracks, and definitely a highlight of the experience.

Gameplay in Synth Riders takes the core concept of things like Guitar Hero or Rock band, intensifies that idea, and gives you more than just some measly buttons to push! To the beat of the insanely sick soundtrack, you must catch notes that whiz by you in this data-stream, some with both hands, some with only one. Tricks and twists abound, and you will need two things to succeed: reflexes and rhythm. Become one with the synth and topple the machines that have taken over. Become the ruling body!

The game is currently on sale for the Oculus Rift, and it can also be found on Steam VR for the HTC Vive. Don’t worry, though… more platforms will be supported very soon! At $9.99, the price is more than right for what you’ll be getting. If you’re after an intense, thrilling, fast-paced retrowave cyberpunk VR experience (come on, we both know you are), go get Synth Riders.

bryan.eddy@newretrowave.com

Review overview

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