Smash Drums VR review

by Lars
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VR drumming is one of my favourite pastimes (when the family aren’t around to quietly judge my flailing arms). Smash Drums VR is a slightly more realistic take on the drumkit than my current favourite, Ragnarock. It’s slightly more complex and measured in its delivery. Where Ragnarock is an indulgent, arcade-y Guitar Hero experience, Smash Drums VR plays almost like a simulator.

As a result, I had to train myself out of a fair few habits to get the most out of it. There’s much more to think about than simply crushing a symbol with a hammer as it passes over a drum – you’ve got to hit cymbals at half beats, consider the force at which you’re hitting the drum, or sometimes just tap your sticks together in time with the beat. If you can remove yourself from the obvious feeling of sitting/standing there with a VR headset strapped on, it does feel pretty convincing.

Smash Drums VR already comes with a generous complement of songs. A lot of the song library probably won’t be instantly recognisable – these are small names for the most part, but that doesn’t matter because for the most part they’re genuinely very good. It’s mostly rock and metal-adjacent music, but there’s plenty of variety in BPM and general flow to keep anyone engaged. Where Ragnarock is a drumming game for metalheads, Smash Drums VR is a drumming game for, well, drummers. It’s probably as close to real drumming as VR can currently manage.

While you can choose to play Smash Drums VR at a much more complex and intense difficulty than Ragnarock, it can be played as a much easier and more accessible experience. From my experience this really isn’t the best way to play the game, though – so much of its strength lies in the extra complexity, which delivers such a convincing drumming experience. This is something that could easily be used as a teaching tool with a few tweaks.

I really only have two considerable gripes with it. The UI in general is a little messy and rough around the edges, but you can easily move past that in the heat of the moment. If you’re used to the smooth neon-splashed darkness of Beat Saber or Ragnarock‘s timeless low-poly graphic style, Smash Drums’ basic visuals may stick out to you a bit. There also isn’t quite as much feedback to hitting the drums as there could be – your score is obviously improved by good timing, and I did find it hard to keep track of when I was doing well at first.

This is something that you can adjust to over time, but it’s initially hard to correlate the scores you see on each individual strike to good performance. With the game looking as it does, it’s hard to pick the right information out at times. Eventually you get into a good rhythm and that feedback isn’t important – but it definitely has a learning curve compared to Ragnarock. Ultimately, it’s worth persisting until you get the hang of it, because Smash Drums VR is incredibly rewarding to play once you do.

Smash Drums VR overall thoughts

Developer PotamWorks should be incredibly proud of what he’s created. It’s a great musical experience you can take pretty much anywhere with you thanks to the Quest 2, and it manages to offer something remarkably different from rival Ragnarock considering the similar premise. Where Ragnarock is arcade-y, drum bashing fun, Smash Drums VR is a little more technical and involved. It can be played as simple arcade fun, but it really comes alive when you crank up the difficulty a bit.

Smash Drums VR is only going to get better over time. It may not have the big, eye-catching songs yet or perfectly polished visuals, but it’s fun as hell, and offers an experience for everyone. Whether you’re an actual drummer or just a VR bandmate like me, this game can be played at any skill level. It’s addictive, accessible, and regularly updated – don’t sleep on it.

Click here for more reviews! You can find Smash Drums VR on the Oculus store here.

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