I’ve played a lot of Star Wars games, but none have made me feel like a Jedi Knight quite like Beat Saber, a VR rhythm game from developer Hyperbolic Magnetism that launched on Steam and the Oculus Store a few weeks back. At its core, Beat Saber is a classic rhythm game, similar to Guitar Hero or Thumper, where colorful blocks fly down the screen toward you, synced to the beat of the song. But instead of mashing buttons on a plastic guitar or navigating with a controller, Beat Saber has you smash them out of the air with two glowing blades that look suspiciously like lightsabers.
And it is a blast.
Mechanically, Beat Saber is a joy to play for anyone who’s ever imagined picking up a lightsaber and heading off to battle, with the blades sparking and sizzling in front of you. The blocks don’t just vanish when you hit them — they fly apart in a shower of sparks and bounce around the level, complete with just the slightest touch haptic feedback to let you know you hit it. You earn more points by making more precise cuts, and there’s the usual combo system that adds multipliers for hitting consecutive streaks of blocks correctly. And as an added wrinkle, you have to physically dodge giant, glowing walls in order to continue playing, forcing you to duck and dip throughout your VR space.
It’s the way that the elements of Beat Saber come together that makes the game so great. Somehow, the music and the beat combine with the slicing of the blades to make you feel like you’re really a Jedi warrior. Sure, you may not be facing down Darth Vader, but the constant flurry and shifting strikes that Beat Saber demands turns what could be hapless flailing around into what feels like the skillful swordplay of a fencing master. It’s a lot like how nailing a good Guitar Hero solo had the ability to make you feel like a god of rock, and it’s much more convincing than the actual VR Star Wars game out there.
There are three modes in Beat Saber right now. Arcade has you swiping down blocks with both the red and blue blades, with specific directions that you’ll need to slice in. There’s also an easier mode that just lets you swing away with reckless abandon without needing to concern yourself with what angle you’re approaching the blocks from. And there’s a single blade mode, which hews closest to the actual swordplay of Star Wars. Each mode has its strengths, with the no-arrows and single-blade mode serving as good warmups to prepare for the more demanding arcade mode.
As an early access game, there’s still clearly more work to do — there are only a handful of tracks right now (although fans have already taken to creating their own with more recognizable tunes), and Hyperbolic Magnetism has already said that they’d like to add a single player challenge mode and an official level editor down the road, too.
But even as it stands, Beat Saber is a fantastically fun time for anyone who’s ever dreamt of taking up a lightsaber.