In my youth, I spent a lot of time in clubs dancing to house music. I have a bit of a crazy, hyperactive brain so it’s hard for me to enter any kind of Zen state. But in the wee hours of the club, after most had gone home, it was possible. See, that’s when the music gets really good. The hits are played for the 12:00 A.M. crowd, but the cool, deep stuff is reserved for the late night people who appreciate it. And in those flashing lights and pulsating music, one can lose oneself and achieve inner peace—at least until the lights come on.
Well, those days are long gone, but my love for loud pulsating music never died. Nor did my love for entering Zen states, and one of the only ways I'm still able to do so is playing rhythm games. Rhythm games don't give you time to think. You can’t overthink or under think what’s happening on screen. You simply have to interpret the commands on the screen fast enough to press the correct button in time to match the beat. This essentially allows you to block out all the noise in your head and achieve inner peace. At least until the song ends or you miss a beat and scramble to get back on track.
Or in this game’s case, until you realize you haven’t been healing your group and you’re about to die from the attacks of a giant one-eyed monster. That’s right, healing in a rhythm game! It’s the latest entry to the rhythm game genre—The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor, and it fuses fast paced rhythm games with RPG elements. It’s quite the mashup! Like many of the great musical mashups, this game takes two very different game genres and mashes them together to create something surprisingly enjoyable. While the game is decidedly more rhythm game than RPG, there are enough RPG elements to make the rhythm genre feel fresh again.
In the game, you control a group of fantasy heroes as they battle their way through song after song of wacky fantasy monsters. Each person in your party has special offensive or defensive abilities based on typical RPG characters. There’s a healer, tank, rogue, etc. They can wear gear for stat bonuses, learn new attacks and get stronger as they level up. Experience points are given even if you fail a song, so there’s always a sense of progression.
All four characters in your group are on screen at once, so the trick of the game is switching between them without losing the beat. After pulling off an attack, healing, or buffing, etc., you must switch to a new character to let the first one rest. This is where the strategy element comes into play. You’ll have to think about which character is best to use next. Luckily, each character only has a few attacks/moves so it’s not super complicated, which makes sense considering how little time you have to choose your next character.
Each of the characters has three attacks/moves that can be activated by imputing correct key commands to the rhythm. The longer you follow the beats, the stronger the attack you unlock, with the third being the strongest. To activate any attack or move, you simply switch to a different player. I had my healer set up so the first move healed, the second cleansed negative conditions and the third granted protection for the group. And as the game progresses, you unlock new attacks and moves so you can customize things a bit. You’ll also activate automatic moves or stat bonuses if you go long enough without missing a beat. And if you’re really good, you can pull off a group attack for mega damage.
Beyond new attacks, there is lots to unlock in the game. After beating some songs, you’ll unlock challenge modes to redo them under certain conditions. You’ll also unlock lots of loot to make your characters more powerful. And you can even unlock new characters to keep your group from getting stale. And of course, you’ll unlock lots of great new songs.
A rhythm game is only as good as its music, and this one has some red hot jammers! I normally play Japanese rhythm games, so this was a nice musical change of pace. Fans of chiptunes and chiptune culture will find themselves right at home with this music. Most of the songs are good, many are great and there’s a few you’ll never get out of your head. While most the music was chiptune, clubby or indie sounding, there were a few rock songs sprinkled in there too. Just enough variety to keep it interesting.
One of my favorite things about this game is the leveling up system, because you get experience points even if you lose. This means even if you can’t get pass a boss initially, you can redo earlier, easier songs to level up and come back stronger. As a fan of rhythm games, one of the most frustrating things is getting stuck on a really hard boss and having to hear the same song a gazillion times until you beat it. This game does not have that problem.
Graphically speaking the art style is simple, but cute. While the heroes look fine, it’s really the monsters that steal the show. Many of the monsters sport a “cool club” style and wear sunglasses, tank tops, hot pants and the typical stuff you see in clubs. But even the ones that are just monsters also look great. The creature designer for the game did an excellent job of coming up with a wide variety of humorous, scary and epic-looking beasties to fight. My favorite was the little ghost in the haunted disco ball. So cute!
My only complaint is the same complaint I have for many rhythm games—I can’t really enjoy the art and cool stuff happening on the screen because my eyes are glued to the section that tells me what button I have to press next. But that’s not the developer’s fault, that’s the inherent fault in all rhythm games.
This game sounds crazy, but falls under that magic “just crazy enough to work” category. It’s a big, bright, colorful journey into music and sound. And role-playing games. It’s fun!
Hint: This game will occasionally do its best to rattle you by blocking your input commands with falling rocks and other things. There are times when you can’t depend on your eyes and you have to let the rhythm guide you!
by Urian Brown
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