Synapse PSVR2 review | Unlimited power!

Synapse lets you dual-wield guns and telekinesis inside someone else’s mind. Here’s our review of a satisfying PSVR2 power trip.


Nothing immerses you in an interactive VR experience more than wielding a tool or weapon, so logically, dual-wielding should provide double the fun. But Synapse’s secret sauce is that, as well as wielding an ever-reliable gun, your other hand is used for something even cooler: telekinesis.

Headshots are one thing, but Jedi powers that let you pick up objects or enemies and hurl them in the air or slam them into walls? That’s god-tier stuff, and despite taking the structure of a roguelite, these are elements Synapse offers up within just a few short runs.

Synapse casts you as an operative sent to infiltrate an island facility where ex-colonel-gone-rogue Peter Conrad (voiced by David Hayter) is holed up. Your handler (voiced by Jennifer Hale) explains he’s planning a global attack that could trigger Armageddon unless you can retrieve the valuable data that will thwart his plans. Considering the high stakes, security appears remarkably lax: there isn’t a single person to be seen on the island apart from Conrad himself, who you find unconscious and hooked up to a machine.

Genre: Roguelite telekinetic action shooter | Format: PSVR2 [tested] | Developer: nDreams Studio | Publisher: nDreams | Price: £29.99 | Release date: 4 July

It’s here that the real mission starts, because the data you need to find is located inside Conrad’s deranged mind – a monochromatic place where anything goes. There are levels spawning waves of soldiers prepared to defend their leader and eliminate any ‘unbelievers’. Fortunately, you have your guns and telekinesis to fight back.

The infiltration follows familiar roguelite cues where your goal is to defeat all the enemies in a level, which then opens a portal that takes you to the next area – and deeper into the colonel’s mind. The challenge increases in tandem with new modifiers, either choosing between two at the end of a level or by finding a statue and spending resources called defiance, which is gained from defeated enemies. But while death means starting an infiltration from the beginning, there’s plenty of permanent progression that makes Synapse a far more generous roguelite than, say, Returnal.

Frankly, you already start off at a good advantage to face the colonel’s mind army. Besides pulling off headshots with your pistol, you can use telekinesis to smash boxes over an enemy’s head or grab an explosive canister by gently depressing the trigger and then squeezing it all the way to detonate. The latter remains one of my favourite tactics even late in the game. If you hear an enemy who’s standing out of view, you can take a guess where they are, move an explosive device to their rough location, and detonate it. The enemy’s death cry is your sadistic reward.

synapse review

Credit: nDreams.

When held palm upwards, your telekinetic hand also has a handy radar, which displays enemy location as well as other information such as your health and the amount of defiance you’re carrying.

During each run, you’re encouraged to use your abilities creatively in order to align yourself closer with the colonel’s mind. What this boils down to is a tick list of achievements, such as killing a set number of enemies, with variants like killing x number of a particular enemies with a particular weapon or power. These earn you special points which can then be spent on a permanent skill tree – and boy are the telekinetic upgrades worth unlocking early on.

Soon, you’re able to pick up enemies and fling them off a cliff, smack them into each other, or grab an enemy’s lobbed grenade and send it back to them. Perhaps more useful is that, despite the very good hand-tracking of the Sense controller, you can also use buttons to push things away or bring them closer, which when combined with the ability to grab enemies is ridiculously satisfying. Can’t get a good shot from a distant target? Then pull them over and blast the helpless fella while you’ve got them suspended in the air.

None of this is to say the other upgrades aren’t also useful. These include health fountains or different weapons like a submachine gun, shotgun, a potentially game-breaking grenade launcher, and even the ability to revive at least once after death.

Does all this progression make Synapse a bit too easy? Perhaps, although some enemy variety keeps you on your toes, like the mini-gun toting brutes that come close to feeling like mini-bosses. These sometimes come with body armour that first needs to be yanked off via telekinesis to reveal their weak points. There’s also nothing quite as stress-inducing as being caught out by Furies, who charge at you before self-destructing.

synapse review

Credit: nDreams.

A narrative twist after completing your first run also incentivises you to re-enter the colonel’s mind, not just amping up the difficulty but also to uncover more to Conrad’s story than your handler initially told you. That said, it’s the gameplay that compels more than the plot, even though it’s nice to have Hayter and Hale reunite 25 years after their respective roles as Solid Snake and Naomi Hunter in Metal Gear Solid (it would’ve been nice if there was more of a tête-à-tête between the two like they did over the Codec all those years ago).

Still, it won’t take you more than a handful of runs before you feel like a god squishing ants. The modifiers unlocked during a run only elevates this further, so when you’ve got perks like regaining health by collecting defiance once your health has dropped below a certain amount, or increasing damage the more defiance you’re carrying, the ability to see enemies through walls, or even have them turn on each other, the combinations make for some ridiculously unstoppable builds.

I did run into some technical issues, mostly due to my personal hit-and-miss experience with the PSVR2’s eye-tracking, which in fairness hasn’t been limited to Synapse. Despite the magic you feel when it does work – what you look at changes colour to stand out from the game’s monochrome environments – I found it tricky to highlight specific objects I wanted to grab if there were many interactable things grouped together. This was more noticeably erratic when I looked at different upgrade nodes. Even when switched to hand-tracking, I still occasionally found some things wouldn’t become interactable despite waving my visible target right over them

Those blemishes were never egregious enough to derail the experience, though. And while other roguelites offer more challenge and variety, Synapse is still an absolute blast to play, with moments that easily rank highly in some of the most bad-ass things I’ve been able to do in VR.


Credit: nDreams.


Besides guns and telekinesis, your hands can grab any object or piece of environment and use them as cover. It’s a mechanic that has its origins in nDream’s previous game, Fracked. It can even be used to quickly vault over cover or for climbing up walls, giving you a different way to reach higher ground, or in a couple cases, escape the explosive wrath of Furies.

Verdict: 82%

Synapse may be the lightest of roguelites, but it provides one of the most fun power trips you’ll find in any VR game.

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