Harmonix Music VR

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Harmonix Music VR Game Poster Image
Music game is imaginative but lacks objectives, depth.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about rhythm, get creative in this simple musical experience set in virtual reality. Players use hands to draw pulsing, vibrating rhythm visualizations, creating whatever pictures, shapes they can imagine. Can also move marionette limbs to a beat, loop that movement, creating choreography for group of dancing puppets. Little instruction, formal objectives, but kids may come away with heightened interest in music, visual art.

Positive Messages

Encourages creativity, appreciation of music, light physical activity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No characters in game.

Ease of Play

Simple controls and no way to lose make this easy for anyone to pick up, play.

Violence & Scariness
Language
Consumerism

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Harmonix Music VR is a downloadable set of music-themed virtual reality experiences focused on visualizations and dancing. Some modes involve nothing more than looking at images that pulse with the music, while others allow players to control the choreography of dancing puppets or use their hands to draw lines of light that seem to hang in midair. There's no story, no characters, no combat, and no profanity or sexuality. Parents should be aware, though, that virtual reality equipment makers do not recommend VR experiences for kids under 12 due to the potential impact the technology may have on younger players’ physiological development.

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What's it about?

HARMONIX MUSIC VR provides players four ways to experience music in virtual reality. Two of the modes -- one set on a beach, another in a colorful tunnel -- don't require controllers. Players simply sit back and enjoy the virtual images around them, sometimes looking at a specific object to change viewpoints or experience a different set of images. Another mode allows players to create their own visualizations by letting them wield one PlayStation Move controller like a marker to freely draw lines in midair and the other as a palette from which to select different effects. Players can then reach out and grab these pulsing tangles of lines with their controller and place them anywhere in the virtual world around them. The final mode turns players into choreographers by giving them the power to control the dance movements of a group of puppet-like characters. They simply select a body part, move it how they like for a couple of seconds, and let go. The movement will be looped in rhythm with the song until the player changes it again. In each mode, players can create their own track list from 17 included electronica songs.

Is it any good?

Most players would expect more from the imaginative music game studio that originated series such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band. It’s not that Harmonix Music VR is badly made or buggy but rather that it lacks depth and feels more like a collection of demonstrations of what developers could do with VR than an actual game. The music visualization modes are admittedly beautiful but grow old after a few songs -- perhaps less, if you're not a fan of the game's similar-sounding electronica tracks. While the drawing and dance modes may initially wow most players with their precision creativity, they lack anything in the way of objectives or story. Sure, it's fun to draw and choreograph, but without goals -- or even a means of effectively sharing what you've created with others inside the same virtual world -- the drive to continue creating quickly evaporates.

Harmonix has made some of the best and most innovative music games of all time. Dance Central remains the most challenging and realistic dance series around, and there's still nothing quite like Fantasia: Music Evolved. And they've demonstrated some terrific musical VR ideas here. But until they can turn these ideas into something that feels like a game with goals and progress, VR enthusiasts will be better off with deeper and more compelling musical experiences such as Thumper and Rez Infinite.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. It’s easy to become fully immersed in virtual reality and lose track of time, but has your family discussed what the appropriate length of a VR play session should be?

  • Talk about creativity in games. Harmonix Music VR lets players use their imaginations to draw music visualizations and create new dance moves, but have you ever created something in a game that inspired you to create something physical in the real world?

Game details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love music

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