Review – Unplugged: Air Guitar (PSVR2)
Ready to be a nerd turned into a virtual rock star? Unplugged:Air Guitar, finally made available to PSVR2, will have you literally air strumming to stardom! Do you miss Guitar Hero or Rockband? I sure do! Now we can satisfy that itch and play with without the need for additional equipment!
Developed by Anotherway and published by Vertigo Games, Unplugged: Air Guitar makes its way from Meta Quest 2 (which unfortunately we did not experience) to make use of the Sense controller to imitate the feeling and “weight” of a guitar, pressing buttons and lightly twisting your wrist to compensate from the lack of finger tracking.
From nerd-nerd to rock star-nerd!
The game opens up with a poster for Satchel, the fictional lead guitarist for Steel Panther, coming to life to insult you, the gamer nerd, for wanting to be a rock star. It’s a cheesy, but entertaining opening that evolves into him teaching you the ways of playing the game, as well as becoming a rock star. Using your dominant hand to strum and the other to hold the neck of the guitar to press the corresponding buttons, he takes a backseat, and you are free to choose from any of the five set lists with the introductory set being on the right side.
The game is easy enough to pick up initially, but this is where the game’s lack of proper direction and progression might confuse those new to rhythm or guitar games. You are free to choose from any of the set lists, however, you do not want to do this. Instead, you want to play the sets in order, or you will miss key tutorial elements that Satchel only teaches in the first set list. Not only that, the game starts you off on “Easy” difficulty, which sounds ok at first, but coupled with being able to accidentally miss the tutorial, could leave you scratching your head in frustration, or turning you off from the experience altogether.
My experience was not the greatest starting out. After I did the tutorial, I had to turn the game off to do something else, and when I came back, I didn’t realize the way the progression was set up and had accidentally skipped all the tutorial. Luckily, I had my experience from Guitar Hero, so I did end up turning down the difficulty to “Easy Peasy” to attempt to learn most of the gameplay on my own.
Unless you’re amazing, start the game on Easy or Easy Peasy.
Gameplay elements are simple enough to understand. Before the start of a song, using the right controller (or left if you’re left-handed, which can be switched in Main Menu), you can use a handle to adjust the body of the guitar and place it where it’ll be comfortable for you to strum. This does not move with you during gameplay, so don’t move away from it. This creates stability, feeling and structure of holding a virtual guitar. You can also choose to use R2 to hold the pick or strum without pressing a button. With my left hand, I use the trigger (L2) button to activate the blue note, and holding on to the handle (L1) activates the green notes.
In the original version on the Meta Quest 2, with full finger tracking, they are able to use the full combination of blue, green, yellow and red. However, in higher difficulties starting in some Normal tracks, in the PSVR2 version this is done by slightly moving the wrist up and down switches the notes from blue/green to yellow/red. It’s an interesting solution, one that once mastered makes you feel like a guitar player, however, in my opinion, it was quite difficult to wrap my head around. Especially when some of the colours feels faded and difficult to see once the other buttons are introduced, especially the blue. Once you start with Hard difficulty, everything from Normal gets ramped up to crazy levels, that only the dedicated and guitar legends will be able to perform.
Another missed opportunity is Satchel himself. When he was first introduced, though cheesy, I felt that he was a fun character to mentor my rise to greatness. However, apart from pumping me up at the end of a song with a simple “whoo”, he is under utilized. Perhaps because I love narrative-driven games, even a small one in a rhythm game, I was hoping maybe since they introduced a character, that they would allow me to play with him more. Maybe just a small blurb about me playing in his bands, his songs, or a venue.
As a non-guitar player, in my opinion, you really need to get into the groove and enjoy the music to do well. Switching between blue/green and yellow/red, knowing when strum, find the courage to let go of your strumming hand to raise your hand to hype up the crowd gets to be too much. However, these can be overcome by more play time. The problem then is the fun factor, which is hindered by lack of general progression, graphical, and physical aspects. It’s a good game, but difficult for me to recommend. You might enjoy it more if you’re a guitar player first, or just really enjoy guitar games.
Beautiful attention to detail; from stages to props. However, often hard to appreciate during actual gameplay.
Gameplay and accessibility options are minimal, making notes harder to see, which doesn’t help with the difficulty spike.
Great selection of tracks starting with over twenty songs, twenty unlocked through progression, and more through DLCs.
Fun Factor: 7.5
(As a non-guitarist) Neck strains looking at the guitar handle limits play sessions. It’s fun to play, easy to pick up, but hard to master.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Unplugged: Air Guitar is available now on PSVR2, PCVR, Meta Quest 2, and Pico.
Reviewed on PSVR2.
A copy of Unplugged: Air Guitar was provided by the publisher.