by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Back to basics
In recent years, rhythm video games have been left to the big companies with their fancy plastic controllers shaped like instruments. However here we have The Metronomicon, a game which harkens back to the good old days of simply tapping out the button prompts on a good old fashioned gamepad. It’s a game about “rhythmic combat arts,” so basically you will be using music and dancing to fight against monsters who will be dance-fighting against you - because that’s incredibly dangerous to the kingdom, as you can imagine.
You will have a party of four adventurers, and at first they will be newly graduated rhythmic combat artists, but soon you will discover new people who will join your adventuring group. It’s up to you to decide which four you take into battle, and this is where some RPG elements come in. The characters generally fall into the standard fantasy roleplaying tropes of tank, damage, and healer, although each character has their own abilities which may stray from the norm. You might have a healer who can also cast a strong electrical spell, or a tank who can cure debuffs from the rest of her party. You can take any combination of heroes you like, but it’s usually a good idea to have a good balance.
Instruments of destruction
Party composition is important because the enemies you face will all have their strengths and weaknesses. Water is strong against fire, electricity is strong against water, and so on, so you will need to choose characters who can deal with all sorts of situations. In addition, you can swap out the spells and abilities of your heroes when they level up and learn new ones, so it’s highly unlikely the group you start the game with will be the one you finish it with. You will also unlock new items to increase the ability scores of your party, making them more defensive, or giving them a higher magic stat to blast away their foes.
Now, onto the gameplay. Fans of rhythm games will probably look fondly back at Amplitude, and there are similar mechanics on show in The Metronomicon. You will have lanes of falling icons, one for each of your party members, and you can flip between them at will. The icons correspond to buttons on the controller, either the face buttons or the d-pad, and sometimes you will need to press a combination of the two at the same time. It’s not just about getting chains of correct button presses though, as it’s by achieving a certain number of presses in each lane that you will get to use your characters’ abilities. Each hero will eventually have plenty to choose from, but you can only take three into battle. Plus, you need to order them.
Ordering your abilities will determine how difficult they are to cast, i.e. your first ability will only need a handful of correct button presses, while your third one will require three times as many. The tradeoff here is that your third ability in your list will be much more powerful than if you put that same ability in the first slot. You could risk putting your heal ability in the third slot, and although it will be super powerful there, it could be tough to actually cast it. Fail a single button press in the sequence and you will have to start all over again. Meanwhile, your party could be getting pummeled by enemies. The game defaults to easy, and that’s a good thing, because as the difficulty ramps up it becomes almost impossible to get a good combo together. It will take a long time to become proficient at this game on the higher difficulties.
Story missions generally have you simply surviving to the end of the song, however to progress you will actually need to defeat the final boss of each zone before the song ends. There are also side missions, where you replay songs with varying objectives. For example you might need to defeat a certain amount of enemies in the time, or deal a certain amount of damage. This brings a degree of replayability to the game, as does the mode where you can simply play any song again in an attempt to beat the high score on the global leaderboards.
The soundtrack itself is a mixed bag, literally and figuratively. There’s really something for everyone, with songs ranging from rock and metal to electro and dubstep, but I fear in an attempt to please everyone, the soundtrack may not be particularly appealing to anyone due to its highly eclectic nature. Rhythm games are usually varied, but stay within a certain genre or two, while here there’s a real discordant feel as you progress from song to song. Each individual song is fine, but as a collection it’s too all over the place. Plus, for a game about dancing, the actual animations for the battles are somewhat lacking, with the characters simply moving back and forth in time to the music like cardboard cutouts.
Overall though, The Metronomicon comes together in a neat package which rhythm game fans will certainly get a deal of enjoyment out of. The soundtrack is varied, with highlights being songs from the likes of Perturbator, however it’s likely you will dislike just as many songs as you do like. Bringing in the RPG elements makes this game stand out from other rhythm games, and there’s enough here to keep you going through the end of the game and beyond.
A coming together of genres which works well, plenty of variety in music and abilities.
Soundtrack may be *too* varied, animations are lacking.