Genre: Rail shooter, music
Developed by: United Game Artists
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
Platforms: XBOX 360
Feeling Like: Manic meditation
More than a few of my work colleagues have gotten into zen activities. Whether it’s the stressful nature of a career in online marketing, getting older or the fact that they have to listen to me talk for 8 hours a day, resetting your brain and relaxing from time to time is essential to staying sane.
Everybody has their own style of meditation. Greg the coder likes the float tank. Mike the co-founder finds his calm in the gym. Games in the vein of Rez HD are mine. When I can experience a game that will get my feet tapping, hands sweating, heart racing and somehow reduce my stress, I know I’ve found something unique.
So few titles have perfect synergy between the audio, visual and gameplay. Rez HD plays like a combination of Starfox and Audiosurf. You play as something that would look at home in the Lawnmower Man as you traverse an indescribable techno landscape. Your goal is to defeat enemies, but that’s not the purpose of playing. As you shoot on rails, the sound effects sync perfectly in time with your blasts. The graphics are unlike anything you’ve seen. Think the “trip” sequence in 2010: A Space Odyssey and something out of a really good 90s commercial about the future.
There’s a story, but even after researching it, I don’t know what it is. It’s irrelevant, both to the game’s structure and my enjoyment of it. I loved replaying levels over and over, hitting combos and taking in every inch of color thrown my way. Progression means harder levels, harder hitting music and some incredible boss fights. It doesn’t take long to beat, less than a few hours. But it’s something I would come back to for a level or two whenever I felt the need to unwind.
There’s a definite chance I played this at the wrong time in our history. Among a few other titles, Rez HD will benefit enormously from emerging virtual reality technology. I’ve tried a few tech demos on the Oculus Rift but nothing that would come close to this cascade of sensations that is Rez HD. I could look at it that I was too early, but I can always remember that it’s not too late either. If it means I can float, shoot things and listen to techno while being 100% visually immersed, I’ll have no choice but to buy in and feel the rhythm.