Can’t Stop The Music
HIGH Perfectly matching every beat of a boss’s ultimate attack, and destroying him with my counter!
LOW Dying a dozen times because the game hides the health meter.
WTF No, those aren’t landmines, they’re just special effects!
In a world where dance is creative expression, a form of currency and the source of all energy, a group of stalwart adventurers are tasked with facing an otherworldly threat who wants to bend dance to its own evil ends. That’s the audaciously ludicrous premise of Metronomicon, a rhythm/RPG title that asks players to use classic ‘match the falling beat’ gameplay to battle monsters across five different worlds to the tune of dozens of different songs. If nothing else, Metronomicon certainly has a claim to freshness in genre combining that few other titles can offer.
I was surprised to see how well the developers have adapted rhythm-based gameplay into combat mechanics. The player controls one of their four party members at a time — each one has a beat meter over their head, with color-coded directions falling in four slots. It’s remarkably easy to use a controller since every beat is represented as both a direction and the matching color on an Xbox controller. Up is Y/Yellow, Left is X/Blue, and so forth. I’ve never played a step-based dance game, but it was easy to learn the basics and the pace of the beats is timed so perfectly to each song that I never had any trouble winning fights.
A lot of that success comes down to a surprisingly deep bench of character power. The heroes all have three slots for abilities, and a multitude of options to equip in them. The spells can also be adjusted based on what the situation calls for. Set one up to require five beats and get a weak one that’s quick to cast, or turn it into a powerhouse with 30 required beats and hammer enemies into the ground.
Between the large number of characters and the modular nature of spells, players have a nearly limitless amount of customization they can perform in preparing for fights. The way the game handles debuffs is also clever — dizzy characters have to deal with beats swinging in and out of their lanes, while blind ones only get one bar’s worth of warning about what they’re going to have to press, rather than the usual three.
While the combat (the entirety of gameplay) has a great flow to it, there are a couple of things that make it a little more awkward than it should be.
Knowing which elemental attacks to bring to a fight is key to victory, but the game doesn’t warn players what kind of foes they’re going to be up against. I often found myself starting a battle, getting a sense of the opposition, then quitting, adjusting my loadout, and starting the fight over.
Another issue is that players have to constantly be attacking, buffing, and healing their team. The problem is that the developers haven’t cracked a way to give information to players that doesn’t intrude on the core gameplay.
When enemies attack, red numbers appear below the character they’ve hit, and the health bar to the left of the screen goes down. But, since players have to constantly be matching beats, it’s incredibly easy to lose track of how close to death they are. Missing beats means casting the wrong spell or losing all progress in powering one up, so glancing away from the character for even a moment can’t be risked.
Sometimes I was able to glance at the health bar while switching characters, but I found myself often getting killed because I’d lost track of my HP. I wish the health bar had been placed more centrally on the screen so that my eyes would naturally sweep across it while fighting. Just that one little change would have made things far more playable.
The laser focus that the gameplay requires also causes problems with the character design. From what little I’ve seen, the heroes are all incredibly colorful, cleverly designed, and have great dancing and fighting animations. I can’t fully attest to that, though, since I’ve only ever managed to take fleeting glimpses of them. While fighting, a players eyes have to lock onto the always-falling beats. Even on the easiest difficulty, it’s far too easy to loose the flow of combat with even a single errant glance.
As a consequence, I have no idea what most of Metronomicon‘s monsters look like. All I could ever afford during combat was a single peek to check their elemental weakness, and from then on I had to focus on hitting my beats. The only enemies I can identify are the bosses, but that’s because they frequently killed me and gave me the opportunity to look at the thing that had crushed my party.
Metronomicon has a lot going for it — the songs are catchy, the combat is intuitive, and the storyline, while thin, is delightfully weird. I only wish the developers had found a way to let me enjoy the graphics. As it stands, it’s a game that plays well and is interesting to watch, but doesn’t manage to be both of those things at the same time.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Puuba and published by Kasedo Games. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 14 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: The game was not rated by the ESRB, but it contains fantasy violence and partial nudity. This one is almost completely safe for the kids. The storyline never gets very dark, and while a couple of the costumes are slightly on the salacious side, the game never feels excessive or exploitative.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Don’t play this game. You won’t enjoy it.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls – not only can players assign buttons in any way they want, but they can even choose how the buttons display onscreen, whether they want beats coded to standard controllers, guitar controllers, or just directions.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options. This can create problems, since knowing which color an enemy’s health bar is allows players to know which elemental attacks to use against them. The colors they use (red/orange, green, blue, yellow, and purple) can be easy to confuse.