Unplugged: Air Guitar VR Review

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Unplugged: Air Guitar VR Review

Everyone has played an air guitar solo in their living room at least once. If you haven’t somehow, you’re missing out! It sounds incredibly silly but it is, in fact, totally rad. Unplugged is a high-tech extension of this low-tech fantasy. Suddenly people are cheering you on, the stakes are higher and it sounds great. Assuming you and the manual tracking get along well, you’ll have a great time.

That’s right! You control Unplugged just like you would any suitable air guitar – no controller required. For me, this has produced mixed results. By that I mean every move except the stupid click on the finger pinch button, which worked really well. If you’ve ever used manual tracking on a VR platform, you’ve used this one countless times. If you haven’t, it sucks more or less every time. Everything else is perfect! Moving your hand from one chord to another is pretty much perfect. The guitars also hit like they’re supposed to. It’s really just the act of grabbing and pinching that the whole game breathes.

No controller required, of course

Although really, the fault of it lies in the quest itself. Maybe if you are using this game on Quest 2, such issues will mean nothing to you. But this is a problem that I have encountered throughout Quest and its many applications. Fortunately, you never have to do this during songs. But still, adjust your guitar beforehand? It’s like trying to put down a plastic straw wrapper. Does this make sense? I say you cannot take or put down this instrument without a mighty struggle.

But what about the music? It’s amazing, assuming you were a teenager in the 90s. What I really was! The tracklist isn’t limited to a single generation or sub-genre, though it does seem specifically suited to the smoky basement sequels of my distant youth. I was able to listen to each song over and over which is good news considering my skill level. Here is the delicate part, where I admit a love of rhythm games that goes far beyond my skills. To that end, I can’t score Unplugged on a rhythm game tenacity scale. What I can do is tell you that certain finger placements have caused me real, real pain. There are things I had never done with my fingers in my life, before playing this game. The tracklist is excellent, however.

Your teacher and coach throughout this aerial guitar journey is Satchel, the lead guitarist of Steel Panther. His teaching style is mainly focused on the rock star attitude, as well as a basic introduction to mechanics. By the end of the tutorial track, you are more or less prepared to get started. It’s weird to have this real human in a glam rock wig that lights your way through a fleeting world of cheers and glittering visuals. Beyond the occasional presence of Satchel, Unplugged’s graphics are downright utilitarian.

Just you and the stage

To be fair, these aren’t bad graphics. You’re immersed in a small backstage setup with all the usual accessories, with every poster and piece of gear adding more authenticity. The guitars, menu catalogs, and song effects are all crisp and polished. He just feels a little out of the way. Like, all of the processing power and memory is funneled into the act of playing the aerial guitar. Everything else is drained or scrambled into darkness in the service of that vision. I understand the decision to do it, especially while playing. You get such intense tunnel vision that additional assets would be a kind of a waste. The visuals just seem a bit blank, at least in the brief moments between songs.

Unplugged is the long-awaited answer to the question “how cool is air guitar really?” Turns out the air guitar is actually Guitar Hero without the massive custom controller taking up space in your living room. Which is pretty cool! If you’ve got a head for rhythm games, with a lingering fondness for timeless rock songs, there’s a lot to remember here. Hand tracking is better than expected, although there are a few choke points to deal with. Moreover, these quality movement controls cannot prevent certain finger positions from being real bone breakers. Small issues aside, Unplugged is an unconventional and engaging take on VR rhythm games.

*** An Oculus Quest code has been provided by the publisher ***

Good

  • Generally excellent manual tracking
  • Wide range of rock songs
  • Accessible controls

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The bad

  • Grabbing things is super awkward
  • Strangely simple graphics
  • Certain movements cause real pain


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