Developers continue to innovate with rogue-lites to offer new experiences that try to keep you hooked on the loop. The talented minds at nDreams aim to take the genre into the virtual realm with the PSVR 2 exclusive Synapse. With its stylish art direction and slick approach to combat, could this be the next essential title for the platform?
You play a secret agent who arrives on a remote island with the objective to track down and eliminate Colonel Conrad, a former operative who has since defected to a terrorist group. When you enter the base, you notice a distinct lack of activity. As if abandoned, monitors remain on, experiments are in progress and your target is strapped to a strange contraption. With the monumental threat of an outlandish attack on the horizon, the only way to halt this is to infiltrate the very psyche of the Colonel to extract information. The premise is a wonderful and original backdrop for the action. While it does maintain a presence throughout, it never thrusts itself to the forefront which allows you to just focus on the gameplay. Although further narrative exploration would have been welcome, the decision to focus on the action is justifiable.
As you step into the mind of your target, the world alters. Color dissipates leaving stunning black-and-white environments with flashes of neon. The art direction is remarkable and is further accentuated through the crisp and polished visuals. Large titles communicate objectives and help to solidify a Frank Miller-esque aesthetic.
Each level is a layer of the antagonist’s mind, and you delve deeper to learn about your objective. As you progress, enemies get stronger and fights are tougher. Waves of soldiers appear on the map and you must eliminate them all in order to proceed. Your main method to exterminate foes is through the delicious combination of weaponry and telekinesis. Gunplay is solid, allowing you to take out enemies from near and far. There’s a lovely tactile nature to reloading. When in need of ammo, the magazine ejects and requires you to reinsert it. You can do this with your free hand, but better than that, you can use the environment or your actual body which is an incredible way to further immerse you in the world.
As with any shooter, using cover is vital to avoid damage and even though it’s an important aspect of the genre not many VR games utilize it well, until now. Synapse uses a simple and intuitive system that allows you to get behind walls and peek out to deliver a lethal shot. With your free hand, you can grab the environment and then quickly maneuver yourself in and out of cover. This adds a tactical aspect to combat as you can decide how to approach encounters and use the surroundings methodically.
Use the Force
Telekinesis is at the heart of the experience and its implementation is impeccable. Due to the PSVR 2’s impressive eye-tracking tech, you can easily select items with a glance and then use them to vanquish those before you. Crushing exploding canisters and flinging foes is an absolute blast, making you feel like an unstoppable badass as you venture toward your destination. The haptics shine with the two-stage trigger which allows you to easily pick up and then crush items. In addition, when you get shot, the haptics pulse in your headset which allows you to determine the location of your opponent and quickly react.
During your run, you can complete Revelations which are challenges that will grant you the opportunity to unlock permanent upgrades. You can choose your path on the skill tree and that allows you to personalize your playstyle. Slowly you gain strength which creates an addictive loop as you edge closer to your objective. While the thrill of another run resides, the lack of enemy types is disappointing. Foes come in a few different molds but don’t evolve much.
Synapse is an intense shooter that imbues you with heroic powers. Each run in this addictive rogue-lite is exhilarating. The gunplay and telekinesis perfectly combine and allows you to experiment with the mechanics. Due to the upgrade system, you progressively get stronger which gives further incentive for another round. Even with the small number of enemy types and slightly repetitive gameplay, Synapse is an essential PSVR 2 title and a promising glimpse at what the future of the medium holds.
***A PSVR2 code was provided by the publisher***
- Telekinesis is Sick
- Beautiful Art Direction
- Addictive Loop
- Enemy Variety
- Can Get a Little Repetitive
- Story Doesn’t Reach Its Full Potential