Previews

Musical magnum opus: The Metronomicon preview

There are times when a game pops out of nowhere and instantly knocks me off my feet. Kasedo Games and Puuba’s The Metronomicon is one of those titles; the game’s excellent blend of RPG and rhythm mechanics, hilarious story, and killer soundtrack are just some of the things that are shaping The Metronomicon to be one of the best rhythm games in recent years. From my playthrough of the title, I’m excited to see the direction the game is headed.

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The Metronomicon puts you in charge of four heroes who have graduated from a literal school of music, where every role, be it mage or warrior, is controlled via rhythm and the eponymous relic. Upon graduation, a mysterious attack befalls the land, where creatures are holding unruly raves and parties. Throughout the game, you’ll meet more people that will join your cause to try and stop this rhythmic epidemic. The story is very tongue-in-cheek and silly enough to work, and the voice acting is surprisingly well done. Each character has a distinct personality, from the Casanova-type wannabe to a scientist rummaging for a way to stop these demonic celebrations. While there are only a few voiced cutscenes dispersed throughout the game, they’re top notch, and I chuckled throughout my playthrough.

Gameplay is a mix of rhythm-based mechanics and RPG conventions. A party of four is lined up as the characters defeat a nonstop barrage of enemies. During each battle, a song is played, and notes stream downwards for all characters. It’s up to you to press the notes in time with the music using the arrow or WASD keys, ala Guitar Hero or Dance Dance Revolution (in fact, there is a custom made dance pad created for the game). Each character can equip up to three actions, which are built up as you consecutively hit notes. For example, my main spellcaster could cast a water, fire, or lightning spell depending on how many consecutive notes I hit. In order to cast an action, you can either intentionally miss the next note or switch to another character by pressing the left or right shift key. Because a character is unusable for a short time after casting an action, you must keep switching in order to fight against enemies. After a string of consecutive notes, you can pull off a team attack with the space bar, locking you into one character as everyone barrages or defends against the enemy.

Killer dancing bears are par for the course in this game.

Killer dancing bears are par for the course in this game.

Additionally, there are other RPG elements that join the fray. An elemental rock-paper-scissors battle occurs with different types of attacks. If an enemy is a fire type, then water spells are effective against it, yet earth spells are weaker. Because enemies constantly attack regardless of where you are keying in an action, you have to determine which actions are going to be assigned to your first, second, and third level. Putting a cure spell as someone’s first-level action will make it easier to cast, but will take longer to hurt an enemy due to offensive spells being placed further down. Additionally, there are different equipment pieces that characters can obtain, so it helps to experiment with which actions and equipment are best for the situation at hand. It’s a little daunting the first time you play, and the tutorial isn’t too helpful, but with three difficulty levels, you’ll be used to the game soon enough.

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There are different worlds containing stages as well as side quests within cleared stages. Each main stage has a miniboss near the end of a song, which players can defeat in order to receive bonuses as well as unlock new stages (a stage is cleared if you can endure the selected song in its entirety.) Side quests are optional stages that task you with completing an objective in order to obtain an item, like slaying a prerequisite amount of enemies or dealing a certain amount of damage. The final boss of a world, however, must be defeated by the end of the song before moving on.

While I did like the gameplay as a whole, something I have to nitpick about is the boss battles. Bosses are harder than their regular counterparts, and can break up the action with things like sending a meteor (which causes all characters to take turns dodging instead of attacking) or substituting itself with another enemy, which you have to defeat first. While inventive and challenging, due to the random nature of the game’s enemies, these final levels felt like luck-based missions. One of the bosses used its meteor attack so much that I had no time to dish out attacks, and I ended up losing because of circumstances beyond my control. I think that the bosses should employ a fixed pattern in order to be fair towards the characters in the missions.

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As for the soundtrack, it is superb: it does for indie and electronic music what Guitar Hero did for rock. Almost every song is perfect and shows an eclectic range of electronic and pop music, with some hard rock and other influences peppered in. If you’re a lover of the indie scene, you’ll probably find one or two artists that you recognize (I knew Shiny Toy Guns and DJ Cutman off the top of my head.) However, the game makes every song enjoyable to play, even if you wouldn’t listen to it normally. This musical accessibility is perhaps the benchmark of every great rhythm game. All in all, the music in this game is something that will be stuck in your head long after you’ve played the game.

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Brimming with unique personality and a soundtrack that almost everyone will love, The Metronomicon is one of the best rhythm games I’ve had the joy of playing. This is one title that all music fans should try when it’s released in September.

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