There are lot's of video games about being in a band – Guitar Hero, Rock Band, etc. But no game makes it a more real experience. Not all the sex and drugs, but what can go wrong on stage, like Spinal Tap. Stage Presence sets to fix this up a bit.
The premise of the game, to my knowledge, has never been done before. You're with a band whose show just blew out the speakers or had the lighting go out or what-have-you, and the show stops for an amount of time. It's up to you to keep the crowd happy. Then you sing, talk, drink, vomit, smash stuff, etc. until the show can start again. It can get repetitive (Honestly, this happens a LOT to this band, and even with many options to keep them entertained, it starts to be the same after awhile if you don't get creative and go outside of the box), but for a premise, it's very unique and interesting.
Stage Presence has a VR option, but I went with the screen version. Controls can get a bit getting used to – the camera has the VR issue where it's really jerky when you move it, but all the keys and controls line up. Give it some time, and you should be fine – I was.
The graphics are a tad on the last-gen side of things – think Guitar Hero, but with a much less varied crowd. But, it doesn't take anything away from the game. So the people can look really strange at times. So what if lasers shot in your face don't look like lasers – it's all about beating the clock. As long as they're halfway decent, which they are, you need to focus on the task at hand. It's the Monty Python/Mr. Show principle – don't make things too flashy, or your attention will be elsewhere. And it works. The graphics get the job done for sure, but they make you focus on the task at hand too.
Gameplay is interesting. You need to keep the crowd entertained in various ways, and honestly, when the game wasn't “guiding” you to do things like down pills or whatever, it was fun. Many times you'll need to sing – I personally sang “Get Schwifty” from Rick and Morty at one point, and the crowd apparently loved it. Another time I pretended to be an NPR host, and got high marks too. When it's up to you what to do, it's good. When the game forces you to go some routes that detract from creativity, then it starts to get a little grating. They're little invisible walls almost. Still, a little isn't too bad, and more often than not, you're left to your own devices.
Normally for a music game I'd have to say something about the music, but this is a game where it cuts out. But the sound part of it works – the crowd really sounds like the crowd, and the noises you/they make are pretty great. Some levels actually feel like a real concert, and they manage to capture the sounds of awkwardness at times pretty well. Pretty good on this front.
Something that annoyed me here was the singing part – sometimes when it, say, asked you to sing louder, and you did, it didn't record it. I may have a bad sound thing, but I tested it beforehand. Some of the interactions also didn't work right – like when I tried to do something with my hands, sometimes it wouldn't work. These are more technical than a true game bug, but they popped up just often enough to be annoying.
Stage Presence is a fun game, there's no doubt about it. It can start to get repetitive, and it can get frustrating where you do what the game asks, and it doesn't do it. If it didn't hold you back at some parts and was a little smoother, I'd say this would be a great party game. A multiplayer where all 4 band members need to do something together could be really fun. I'd say this is at least worth a try – if you're an aspiring musician, this could possibly get all too real sometimes. Overall the good outweighs the bad, and overall I had a good time. That is, when I wasn't a frustrated.
Final Score: 6.9 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.