Zzzzzzzzz….. hrm… wh… wha?
Oh jeez, sorry! I must have dozed off while prepping for the review of Technic Beat. I sat down in front of my computer to do this piece, but I guess the sandman got the best of me with a little… well, with a lot of help from developer Arika. Anyway, since I'm awake…
One sunny day, I got an envelope in the mail from our fearless leader. After ripping it open, I was greeted with a cheery-looking box labeled Technic Beat. The cover art featured some kind of crazy-cutesy Japanese characters getting down at a splashy disco or outer-space light show. I like weird stuff, and I like cute characters, so this was a promising start.
I flipped open the instruction book to get an idea of what I'd be in for, and there were lots of adorable little drawings of kawaii characters with word balloons over their heads telling me how to play the game. Now, I read a lot and I'd like to think I've had more than the average amount of experience playing games, but I just couldn't quite grasp what these little munchkins and toy robots were telling me. I went over it again, but still no dice. It was something about rings and musical notes, but the gist was fairly impenetrable. I figured that sometimes instruction books are poorly written, and I assumed it'd all come out once I fired up the game and got my hands on the controller. Things did eventually became clear, but after seeing what the game was about, I'm not quite sure why someone bothered to create it.
Basically, I was supposed to pick one of several li'l guys and gals, and then take my funky toy robot or groovy platypus (with goggles!) to a semi-psychedelic playfield that looks a bit like a TV set turned on its back. Glowing rings appeared on the flat screen surface area. My job was to walk around and be inside the rings. Once there, I had to hit a button at the correct moment to set the rings off and play musical notes. With good timing and a little combo-ring action, strings of sounds start playing atop the large variety of techno tracks to choose from.
…And that's it. It took me a few minutes to get the hang of what was going on, and once I did, I started to wonder where the rest of it was. Of course, there's a scoring factor involved and there are little extra bits like the ability to move rings around to chain them up, or to alter the pitch of the music by using the sticks. It also matters whether you pop the rings from one direction or another, but the thrust of the game can be boiled down to this: pop rings, make sounds.
Technic Beat threw in a bunch of half-baked random modes in order to trick me into thinking it's deeper than it actually is, but they still all basically boil down to the same thing…which is a lot of nothing. I kept going back and forth between the menus looking for the other parts of the game that I was convinced I was overlooking, but they just weren't there. Walk around, pop rings, listen to sounds. Repeat. Granted, the pace can get fairly hectic, and popping the rings successfully can take some concentration, but the experience neither asks much, nor gives much in return. In fact, there's so little to the game, I'm simply at a loss for things to discuss in this review.
Console titles in the quasi-music genre can usually be described as being more streamlined, or perhaps more focused than a standard videogame, but Technic Beat wrongly mistakes shallowness for elegance. The spinning intensity of Frequency and the glowing, surreal world of Rez are perfect examples of the synergy that can be achieved by blending traditional videogames with the energy and visceral response music can command. Arika's effort seems to want to carve itself a similar sort of alternative niche, but possesses only a fraction of the gameplay required for relevance. As a result, it fails vapidly.