by Tom Mackey
reviewed on PC
Time to bring the beat back
Inside My Radio presents you with one mission, and that mission is to fix a dying boombox by rescuing the beat. You play a tiny green LED mysteriously trapped inside the boombox and you must work your way through its innards with the help of friends that you meet along the way.
At its funky heart, Inside My Radio is a 2D platformer with a musical twist thrown into the mix. You can move side to side freely, but every other action such as jumping and attacking must be done in time with the beat that is blasting through your speakers. Laser walls, platforms and other objects will also move in time with the beat which means that if you can time your movement well, you can fly through levels with satisfying and rhythmic ease. If you’re not careful you can find yourself vaporised after missing a jump because of being a few milliseconds off of the beat. This can lead to some frustrating moments where you find yourself slightly out of time and are punished repeatedly for it.
You have to pay attention to the soundtrack as well. The beat changes up as you progress through levels and you can't simply rely on the same rhythmic button presses getting you past every obstacle in the game. Fortunately, you aren't punished for missing the beat every single time as is the case in some rhythm games. It is only when you do so in conjunction with the environmental hazards and enemies you encounter that you will find yourself in trouble.
There is a regular checkpoint system in place so that you won't get set back too far and death never feels too punishing. To avoid death, you can jump, dash left or right, and perform midair ground slams. These last two can be used for both traversal, smashing through objects and attacking enemies. There are points in the game where you will be forced to combine all three in order to move forward and this is where being in time with the beat really becomes a challenge.
Still, once you’ve gotten a handle on the gameplay mechanics, this game will not take you long to finish. I had clocked about 2 hours by the time the final credits rolled and was definitely left wanting a little more. There are a few mini games scattered throughout the game and they all follow a rhythm based theme as well. These are quite fun and serve to break things up a little. There are a few secret areas to discover, which adds to the replayability somewhat and extends the experience a small amount beyond its short length.
The story is hardly worth mentioning and does not go beyond simply putting you inside a musical setting. But once the game got going I wasn't really after an extensive campaign stringing all the levels together. This is certainly not where Inside My Radio, but the small amount of dialogue and world building is good enough when you stumble upon it.
Popping off the screen
It’s the visuals and soundtrack where the game really comes into its own. The game has a wonderfully vibrant colour pallet which pops off of the screen and pulsates with the beat of the music. The character and level designs somehow manage to exude personality and vibrancy despite being relatively simple. There's evident inspiration from games like Super Meat Boy and the characters are just as expressive despite being essentially squares with faces. The three characters you will play in Inside My Radio each have distinctive styles in both appearance and the genres of music that accompany them. Your green LED protagonist is accompanied by an Electronica theme, whilst his two companions encompass both Dub and Funk. It is nice to see the game span a few different genres and perhaps had it been longer it would have been nice to see that more explored. This issue with length perhaps also explains the slight lack in monster variety throughout the game. There is only one boss in the game and the small enemies are all variations or the offspring of this monster. Perhaps the developers are saving new monsters and musical genres for a potential sequel, but it feels like they could have squeezed a little more in here.
The soundtrack as is quite strong, with some suitably catchy tracks that successfully adapt to the gameplay. I certainly never found myself - not - tapping my feet to the beat and I highly recommend not playing this game on mute. The game even reminds you not to do this at the very beginning, in fact it would probably be almost impossible to play in silence, though there is a visual 'beat aid' you can turn on if using your ears is not enough.
Less' the pity
When all’s said and done and the music dies, it’s a shame Inside My Radio is not longer. This is a world full of interesting characters and visuals with some promising gameplay mechanics, but it ends too soon. I would have loved to carry on exploring and discovering new music, levels and monsters. It is for that reason that Inside My Radio feels almost like a wonderful little demo for a larger game that I would love to play.
Wonderful character and level design, fun soundtrack and satisfying gameplay
It’s all over too quickly, gameplay and world could have been developed further