Drums Rock Review (PSVR2) – Fight the denizens of hell with the power of rock. Does Drums Rock have the sticks to be a fine addition to the rhythm genre? Find out in PlayStation Universe’s Drums Rock review for PSVR 2.
Drums Rock Review (PSVR2) – Fight Your Demons In This Rocking Drumming Game
If fellow VR drum game Ragnarock has a rather singular focus, then it can be argued Drums Rock’s has too. Just in a different way. While Ragnarock was going for a whole Viking/Celtic rock vibe right down to rowing longboats across icy rivers, Drums Rock is evoking the spirit of early Guitar Hero by way of Metal Hellsinger.
Drums Rock has menus and presentation that feels oddly familiar for anyone who spent the late 2000s with plastic guitar in hand, smashing their way through The Fire and the Flames.
It’s colorful, chunky, and has a very ‘rawk’ thing going on. It actually felt quite pleasant to step back in time like that. The licensed tracks also tend to feel like they’d have been at home in a Harmonix title.
But this is a game about drumming, not guitars. No warbling, no shredding, no slapping of bass, or even a tinkle of the ivories (yes, that was part of Rock Band once upon a time). Just the drums.
As such, it has the same kind of streamlined focus those early Guitar Hero games where the track selection reflects the instrument choice, and puts a bit more care into recreating the act of playing the drums.
Drums Rock tries to put a bit of context into why you’re drumming, and it’s not about envying the fame of the lead singer as they prance about in front of you. No, instead you’re fighting off flying demons to the beat of rock songs.
These demons are conveniently color-coded to each drum, and once they reach a certain threshold, you hit that drum to kill them.
Drum (Rock and) Roll
You have four drums and two cymbals. So even on the more casual difficulty there is an escalation that sees you utilizing all five lanes. Some demons are larger and will have a number on them. These ones need multiple hits to defeat, so whatever number is shown on their gut is how many thwacks it’ll take to banish it.
The structure of enemies to songs is basically just hitting notes, but it’s a nice take on something well-established. To be fair what matters more is that the note pattern feels right for your actions.
For me, this was a common bugbear in other rhythm action games, but Drums Rock actually translates the movements and rhythm of songs really well. In full flow, and after some practice, it feels superb to be lost to the drums and the music. The haptics are well implemented too, pumping up the illusion of having a drum kit in front of you.
Perhaps the only downside is getting used to the placing of the cymbals. As they’re higher than the drums, and directly above the outer ones, the lack of physicality a virtual world brings means it’s very, very easy to flub beat hits because you didn’t hold your arms high enough.
It’s one thing I think is hard for a VR drum game to replicate about actual drumming, and in Ragnarock, the solution was to have cymbals to the sides as power-ups when you go on a run of perfect beat hits.
Giving it Some Stick
I’m slightly torn on that working for Drums Rock though because the cymbals make sense for what the game is doing. So relegating them to a gimmick wouldn’t fit too well. Yes, you can get used to it, but when the songs are fast and the difficulty cranked up, it’s still quite possible to mishit.
It does also sometimes seem like the hit detection is very slightly off, which is less noticeable on more forgiving difficulties, but more frequently sticks an oar in the harder songs get. In a game that relies on precision, that can be a real issue.
While the tracklist is largely perfect for drumming, it is found wanting. A relatively small selection of licensed songs alongside homegrown ones means there’s not a lot of mainstream appeal to Drums Rock. Songs such as Black Betty and I Love Rock & Roll are the most recognizable tracks.
They are a delight to perform, and to be fair, there are really good drum beats in the own brand songs too, but there’s just not enough of them at this stage.
It’s undeniably going to be tricky and expensive to secure licenses for these kinds of games. There’s always a risk they’ll be lost in time (See Harmonix’s last music game Fuser, which has already shut up shop after a couple of years) and never resurface due to licensing issues.
So what developer Garage51 has done is probably the best compromise available to it. Hopefully, there’s a level of success for the developer that will facilitate a healthier tracklist.
Hit or Miss?
You can at least aim to unlock new sticks, hands, and more along the way. Plus there is an actual campaign to get stuck into. So it’s offerings something more than bare-bones tubthumping. Just don’t expect your rock journey to be more than a few stops long.
Drums Rock is now available on PS5 and PSVR2.
Review code generously provided by publisher.