Song In The Smoke: Rekindled is a PSVR 2 survival adventure that has already won numerous awards on PSVR and Oculus. With enhancements for PlayStation VR2, including haptic feedback and improved textures, it's never been better. But is it enough in 2023?
Crouching in the bushes, I loose an arrow that finally takes down the feathered beast I’ve been tracking, taking care to recover the arrow shafts as they’re too precious to waste. But as I look down at my spoils, wondering whether to skin it for its pelt first, or carve out some meat to sate our hunger, I realise it’s almost nightfall and I'm a fair trek far from my campfire.
Song In The Smoke: Rekindled sings on PSVR 2
Survival games are all about making many minute decisions to ensure that you stay alive for another day, but they feel much more immediate in VR. All the more so in Song In The Smoke: Rekindled's prehistoric setting as you use your hands to engage with its systems in simple yet intuitive and tactile ways, like crafting weapons and tools from gathered materials, sparking fires with stone, or crushing plants with a pestle and mortar into drinkable potions.
The same goes for wielding weapons: the bow feels natural to hold as you draw an arrow back on the bowstring. The club is rather awkward for melee and better used to defend yourself from becoming a lion’s lunch. Surprisingly more satisfying is running your knife along sticks you’ve picked up to fashion them into weapon and ammo parts, as well as kindling used for campfire fuel and keeping your tools from falling apart.
Incredible sound design enhances the atmosphere of the large zones you explore, which oscillates between mystical ambience and unnerving horror – being dangerously on low health has never sounded so panic-inducing. By nightfall, even a lit torch or blazing campfire isn’t quite enough to dispel the threats – natural and supernatural – looming on the periphery, waiting to pounce the moment you find yourself short of kindling or sparking stones.
And so it’s vital to keep your supplies topped up, though you have to be shrewd with your cloak’s limited inventory space, and it’s also essential to keep an eye on the durability of your gear and tools. This keeps you from rushing through the campaign where you’re meant to find three mysterious Singing Stones in each zone, which in turn reveals a spirit beast you have to hunt to progress to the next area.
If you missed the original PSVR release it’s no loss because this sumptuous remaster is truly the definitive experience, the painterly aesthetic looking gorgeously sharp in 4K while movement with stick controls is so much smoother, making navigating these wild, lush zones far more absorbing. You’ll need strong VR legs but the option to freely jump around environments as well as climb ledges feels like the only way to play one of PSVR2’s most grounded, atmospheric, and substantial games.
New to Sony's latest headset? Then read PSVR 2 review and also catchup on other games for this new technology, include our Horizon Call of the Mountain review, Sony's own blockbuster game for this headset.
This article first appeared in Play Magazine issue 26. You can subscribe to the print edition, digital version, or save even more with the print/digital bundle – whatever you choose, you’ll be receiving an unprecedented trove of dedicated PlayStation coverage every month.