This review was originally created in December 2018 for HTC, targeted to their Vive/Vive Pro (VIVEPORT). It is reproduced here without alteration.
Although it seems like eons ago in technology years, playing music video games with semi-realistic plastic instruments was a really big deal as recently as the mid-2000s. Despite their popularity having waned dramatically from their fad-driven peaks, the core concept of playing a musical instrument, or singing, to a popular song still holds a lot of appeal. Thankfully, with Riff VR and the power of virtual reality, we can do away with the plastic peripherals and enjoy a self-contained, less hassle-prone guitar, drums, or vocal experience.
After selecting one of its three difficultly levels, Riff VR starts you in the rehearsal area, where you’re joined by your virtual bandmates. As you improve and hit certain score targets, you can advance to a garage, TV studio, and, eventually, a stadium.
Riff VR is designed for Vive, Vive Pro, or Oculus Rift owners. It’s playable as a seated or standing room-scale experience. Naturally, playing guitar and singing are best-suited to standing, while drumming is best-suited to sitting, but you’re obviously free to perform any way you’re most comfortable. In fact, the drum kit’s height is fully adjustable.
Using both motion controllers is intuitive and natural, with color-coded areas to hit on the right beat. For guitar, your right arm strums, while your left arm moves on the virtual fingerboard (support for left-handed players is promised in a future update). For drums, you move both controllers in a drum banging motion. For vocals, I was under the impression you were supposed to hold one controller near your mouth like a microphone as you read the words on the screen karaoke style, but that option, or the on-screen words, ever appeared for me. Other bugs, like a missing left controller or incorrect guitar height occasionally cropped up as well.
As of this writing there are 20 licensed songs built-in, as well as one unlockable bonus song, broken into three main categories: Modern Classics, Classic Metal, and Classic Rock. For Modern Classics, there are songs like “Kryptonite” from 3 Doors Down and “Breakfast at Tiffanys” from Deep Blue Something. For Classic Metal, there are songs like “I was made for loving you” by Kiss and “The Final Countdown” by Europe. For classic rock, there are songs like “Rocky Mountain Way” from Joe Walsh and “Hold on Loosely” from 38 Special. In short, while Riff VR doesn’t have the most expansive library, it does pack some well-known, fun-to-play songs.
A nice touch is that you can use the integrated streaming option to record your performance to YouTube, Twitch, or Facebook, as well in OBS or LIV formats. There’s also a free companion app for iPhone users, Riff AR, with an Android version due at a later date. With this augmented reality app, you can place the virtual band in your own real-world environments, among other features.
Beyond just playing music, you can also use the Creative Hub to design your own environments to play in. This is a fairly robust drag and drop creation set, letting you place, move, and scale objects, change the lighting, and more.
Visually, the game goes for the type of hyped up, semi-realistic look common to this genre of video game. The graphics are nothing special, with uneven motion captured animations that often fail to impart any connection to the current song. It goes without saying that the audio quality is top-notch thanks to the use of real hit songs.
Riff VR goes a long way to showing that there’s still life left in the music video game genre. By doing away with the need for extraneous peripherals, it’s easy to enjoy the core mechanics of the experience. Although I ran into my fair share of bugs with this version of the game, it still proved to me there’s a reason why these types of games used to be so popular.
Score: 3 out of 5 stars.