PS4

Review: Art Pulse – PS4/PSVR

It’s the holiday season, and there will be a lot of families out there looking for new ways to keep the kids out of the cutlery drawer, grandad away from the drinks cupboard and your neighbours comparing your wallpaper with theirs. There’s only so much 007 re-runs and charades can do to keep them occupied. You need to go digital, PSVR digital and try out Art Pulse by VRKiwi.

Art Pulse is a sandbox sort of game with no agenda other than creativity. You could entertain the family with fingerpaints and drawing on an egg box, but Art Pulse is more fun, and your illustrations come to life. It’s a funny setup really, at the beginning of the game (if you can call it a game) you appear in what I can only describe as one of those retro 80s arcade things. You know what I’m talking about – wireframe meshes and all a bit like Battlezone. The task at hand is to use two Move controllers and create what you will. There aren’t goals; it’s a pure sandbox.

Now, what stands out about Art Pulse is you have a selection of 3D shapes to drop into the mix, a full-colour palette, and when you create a shape, it has its associated musical composition. I didn’t realise this at first as was pre-occupied with the 3D boobs I had just drawn, right in my face.

Multicoloured wave in Art Pulse

You wouldn’t be able to trust any of my review scores if I was even slightly dishonest, so I’ll aim to be clear from the outset and in a grown-up manner to inform you that yes, my first doodles were my kids’ names, followed by some boobs, then various formations of poo. All high brow stuff. I wouldn’t say that the game is intuitive, I mean, some tooltips indicate how to bring up your tools, but it was a fluke that I found out how to change the colour of the shapes and freehand tool. The positive side of this lack of guidance means you have plenty of autonomy to do as you will, but also that the screen isn’t cluttered with unnecessary HUDs.

It could be said that the intention of Art Pulse, aside from the apparent creativity element, is to be therapeutic or relaxing. It’s not remotely stressful, but at the same time, I didn’t feel like I was sitting atop a mountain in my pants humming in unison with Mother Earth. In reality, it was a little frustrating due to the limitations of VR as I often found myself drawing on a grand scale but would have to stretch out with the Move controllers to add a moustache to the cucumber I just outlined or giving a fedora to a kangaroo. In reality, I was belting the dog over the head with the controller or falling into the Christmas tree. This wasn’t necessary though as you can actually hold a button and glide forward to get to harder to reach places, but it felt a bit unnatural. I much preferred moving around the lounge, while dangerous, as it brought out my inner artist.

The freehand tool is by far the best as you can draw whatever you like. Obviously. But, I have to say that a lot of the shapes are fun to mess around with. Ignoring the stars that you can make and then throw out into the air like spikey confetti, the basic shapes have a real weight to them and look great in the VR world. In particular, I liked making the spheres, even though there’s no skill to it whatsoever. Bring up your menu with the left controller, select the sphere and hold the trigger while making your new orb of light. I say make an orb of light as once you create one of these spheres, they light up the playing area and look cool. I did the obvious and built my solar system, but while getting everything to scale, the first objects dropped off the screen as they tend to have a brief lifespan. There are additional modes where you can change this, but I kept with the default mode. Shapes will eventually disappear, but you can also use the vacuum tool and clean up any unwanted forms.

Accessing the in-game menu

Not having any direction also meant that Art Pulse lacked the drive to do anything other than to doodle. Sure, I played this with the family, so it was often a case of showing off or just trying to make them laugh. When alone, it didn’t compel me to do my most exceptional work (you can’t save any of it, and it has a self destruct mechanism and will collapse before your very eyes). So the goal is to give you complete freedom, but without set goals, you can run out of ideas on the fly. If there were prompts and timers to create, or somehow integrate this with a DualShock and work on a piece together, this could be a lot more fun.

In the end, Art Pulse felt like a gloried doodle pad: depending on the person, you can have some innovative creations and experiment with ideas. Fundamentally though, they are just doodles and are limited by your imagination and drive to try something new. I loved the feeling of creating shapes in a 3D environment – once I found out how to change the colours, but my interest started to wane a bit, and it felt a little forced.

The addition of sounds to each object is interesting, but somewhat of a gimmick and added to make the illustrations feel a bit more interactive. I didn’t hate the sounds effects, but a continuous ambient track could have worked just as well. Maybe the intention was to mix sound and visuals a bit more than what is shown in the game, but perhaps it got a little too complicated. Again, I refer to Art Pulse as a game, but it’s more of an experience – a doodle free-for-fall in a VR world.

A pink squiggle in Art Pulse

Based on my critique above, will Art Pulse pull friends and family from Christmas monotony after the turkey has been eaten, the mead been swilled and crackers pulled? Yes, but only briefly. It’s an experience worth having, but the lack of challenges mean this is a little bit short-lived unless you can make your own fun. The controls can be a bit fiddly, but not enough to dampen your experience. However, there’s just not enough to make this one a must-have for your PSVR collection. Stick with Concrete Genie for now, unless you got some PSN vouchers for Christmas that are burning a hole in your pocket.

Art Pulse PSVR Review
  • Overall - Good - 6/10
    6/10
6/10

Summary

A pleasant VR sandbox experience, but lacking in any real challenges or variety despite the interesting concept. Perhaps stick with the pen and paper, or if you’re a tech wizard, MS Paint with 3D glasses.

Pros

  • Initially, a great experience seeing your doodles in 3D
  • Some of the shapes have an authentic presence
  • Once you start using colours, you can create art that pops

Cons

  • The lack of restriction gives you creative freedom, but a lack of direction on what to do next
  • Some of the sound effects that play each time you draw are irritating
  • Not much variety – there could have been other worlds to explore, but I understand new content is on the way

Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy. 

Reviewed using PS4 Slim

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