Synapse is a PS VR2 exclusive title developed by nDreams and designed to take full advantage of the PS VR2 headset and controllers. Built from the ground up for this new system, Synapse manages to impress and exceed all expectations.
My initial hour with Synapse was TOUGH! To start, you have only a pistol and very limited telekinetic abilities. Enemies are smart, they can teleport and will flank you if given the chance, and they have surprisingly good aim. Despite my best efforts, I could only make it through 3 or 4 of the increasingly difficult levels. Upon dying, you return to the hub and start over, but throughout your runs, you complete objectives like “Kill 200 enemies”, “Shoot 10 explosive barrels” etc, and through completing these you earn currency that you can use to permanently upgrade your character, whether physically or through upgrades to your weapons and telekinetic powers.
Once you get enough upgrades though, Synapse really opens up. In particular, the ability to use telekinesis to grab your enemies changes the whole game. You become a Jedi with a gun, able to grab enemies and hold them in place while you shoot them, or simply grab them and fling them up into space with the flick of a wrist. This quickly became my go-to way to dispatch my opponents, as it is fast, they can’t shoot back while being grabbed, and it saves on ammo which is already scarce.
Synapse is divided into 3 distinct sections, there is the preconscious which has 3 levels and a boss fight, followed by the conscious which follows the same pattern, then ends on the subconscious. 7 levels in total might not sound like a ton, but you won’t be getting through them all on your first, second, third, or even fourth tries. Synapse demands patience and multiple runs to get strong enough to make it to the end, and even after that, the story gives you reasons to replay the entire thing (which gets even more difficult after your first successful run) multiple times. This kind of replayability is great for both a Roguelite and a VR title, which are both typically played in multiple shorter sessions than single long, drawn-out days of playing.
The gameplay in Synapse is so simple but so incredibly satisfying, I find myself coming back to it again and again. I have “beaten” the game a few times now, but keep jumping back in to try and finish a level faster or complete additional in-game achievements, or just to feel the joy of telekinetically grabbing a bad guy and flinging him into the stratosphere only to watch him crash back down on top of one of his companions.
The story is interesting, if not fully fleshed out, but that is about standard for a lot of games in this genre. I found myself much more invested in the minute-to-minute gameplay than any overarching story, but never felt like that was a negative.
Synapse makes fantastic use of the hardware-specific features of the PS VR2, and does so in ways that are so seamless you rarely think about them while playing. The variable triggers on the controllers allow you to grab something volatile like an explosive barrel gently to move it, then depress the trigger the rest of the way to cause it to detonate when and where you chose. In addition to the triggers, the eye tracking makes it so that you almost always grab exactly what you want, when in a sea of items you may be reaching towards 3 or 4 different things, but you will grab exactly what you are looking at.
The most important thing with a VR game like this (and really, any game in general) is how fun it ends up being, and Synapse is a freaking blast. I enjoyed everything about this game, and it is another must-have title on the PS VR2, and yet another fantastic game that makes me glad I was an early adopter of the headset. If you have a PS VR2, get Synapse on the Playstation Store for $35 and thank me later.
Note: nDreams provided us with a Synapse PS VR2 code for review purposes.