enfrdeitptrues

Rhythm

  • Aaero (Xbox One)

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    Game Info:

    Aaero
    Developed by: Mad Fellows Games
    Published by: Reverb Triple XP
    Release date: April 11, 2017
    Available on: PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Rhythm rail shooter
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Mad Fellows Games for sending us a review code of this game!

    Earlier this year a successful Kickstarter was launched to bring Aaero to Steam along with its PS4 and Xbox One counterparts.  For a two-man development team, I’m impressed with the outcome and I’m sure that the backers will be pleased with the final product as well, as long as they like dubstep music.

    Aaero is a rhythm rail shooter game where you must guide your ship along the music rails when they’re present or else your ship will lose one of its three shields.  These shields are sacred and are not replaceable in the level. When you lose all three you’ll have to start over from the beginning.

    Shields can be lost by hitting an obstacle or by sustaining an attack from enemy aircraft.  Some areas of the map are open and you can freely fly, while many areas, including the inside of a giant sand worm, are very cramped with partially blocked pathways.  Sometimes the path closes in on you and you have to quickly steer towards the remaining opening.  Other times there are helpful arrows to let you know which direction to head toward.  Last but not least are the completely cheap deaths/shield depletions from areas closing in on you without any warning whatsoever.

    Aaero
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun rhythm rail shooter game
    Weak Points: If you don’t like dubstep you’ll find the music annoying
    Moral Warnings: Spaceship violence

    Enemy aircraft and their attacks can be targeted and shot at with the right joystick.  Your ship can shoot several shots at once, which is quite helpful but never enough when multiple enemies lock in on you simultaneously.  If you enjoy boss fights, you’ll be happy to know that there are some in this game.

    At the end of each of the fifteen levels, you’ll be scored on the percentage of time you’ve spent on the music rails, how many enemies you have killed, and by how many of the optional targets you have destroyed.  There are online leaderboards to compare your score with everyone else’s and don’t worry, I won’t be much of a threat.  Aside from aiming for higher scores, you’ll also want to unlock the most stars possible for each song since they’re required to unlock other tracks/songs in the game.  

    While I played on the default/Normal difficulty, there are several more including Advanced, Master, and Chill Out.  You can play Chill Out at any time, but you’ll need to have a 90% completion on the Normal difficulty to play advanced and 100% to enjoy the Master mode.

    Aaero
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The controls are pretty simple, but mastering this game will take some patience and skill.  The left joystick is required for staying on the music track/ribbon.  I like how parts of the song play and fade away depending on if you’re on the ribbon or not.  The right joystick is for locking in on enemy targets and the trigger fires your weapons at them.  Doing all of this simultaneously while staying on the fluctuating track takes some serious coordination and precision.  

    It’s no secret that I’m getting older and my hands quickly got tired after playing three or so tracks.  If you can handle more than that in one sitting, count your blessings!  People dealing with carpal tunnel may want to play this game on another platform or skip it altogether.  

    Other than the first song which got a bit repetitive since it was used for the tutorial as well as first mission, the majority of the game’s music is pretty pretty good... if you like dubstep, that is.  If you don’t like electronic music or dubstep, you’ll probably want to pass on this game.

    Since I’m a sucker for music games, I enjoyed Aaero and recommend it to anyone who likes space shooters and rhythm based games.  Other than shooting down spaceships, this game is suitable for pilots of all ages.  I look forward to upcoming titles from Mad Fellows Games.

  • Akihabara - Feel the Rhythm (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Akihabara - Feel the Rhythm
    Developed by: JMJ Interactive
    Published by: JMJ Interactive
    Release date: January 26, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Number of players: Single-player
    Genre: Rhythm
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $6.99

    Thank you JMJ Interactive for sending us this game to review!

    Rhythm and puzzle matching games have been around for a while. Akihabara - Feel the Rhythm combines the genres into a match 4 game that requires you to move around the blocks to the beat of the music for a combination bonus.  Like most rhythm games, you’re given a rating of perfect, good, or bad depending on your timing when shuffling around the various colored or patterned blocks.

    When you start the campaign mode you’ll get a text-based tutorial of the basic gameplay.  Like Tetris, blocks will fall down in rows of four.  A bar will slide across them and if you press a button on or off beat, the selected block will be swapped out with the one that’s in the preview box on the upper left hand side of the screen.  When four similar blocks are touching they will vanish and clear room for more.  If the blocks build up too high, it’s game over.  Continuing is an option, but you’ll take a score penalty that increments with each continue used.  

    Akihabara - Feel the Rhythm
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great soundtrack; interesting combination of rhythm and matching games
    Weak Points: Unusual gamepad controls; crashes when exiting the game; low-resolution
    Moral Warnings: None

    I’ll be the first to admit that I am not good at this game.  So the continue option is the only way I was able to advance through most of the campaign.  The soundtrack is great and worth purchasing if you like electronic dance music.  You can play songs individually after they have been unlocked in the campaign mode.  

    Some Steam features like trading cards and achievements are implemented, but sadly there is no cloud save functionality.  The progress I made on my desktop did not transfer over to my laptop computer.  The leaderboards are nice, but my name won’t be on there anytime soon.

    Akihabara - Feel the Rhythm
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 100%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The visuals are nice, but are rather low resolution and there are no options to increase the screen resolution at all.  Another weird quirk is that this game would crash whenever I exited from it using my desktop.  My laptop didn’t experience that issue though.  

    Akihabara - Feel the Rhythm has full controller support and I was able to play it using my Xbox One controller and my Steel Series Stratus XL.  The XYAB buttons work in the game but the button to make selections in the game menu is the start button.  The D-pad works as expected, but the joysticks are not usable.  

    There are no moral issues worth mentioning and this game is suitable for rhythm game lovers of all ages.  While this is an interesting combination of puzzle and rhythm game genres, I am not sure if it’s a good fit for me.  I’m good at those genres individually, but when combined I’m horrible at it.  Despite being bad at this title, I still enjoyed playing it.  The price is a reasonable $6.99 and worth keeping an eye on if it goes on sale.

  • Audio Trip (PC) (Preview)

     

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    Game Info:

    Audio Trip
    Developed by: Kinemotik
    Published by: Andromeda Entertainment
    Release date: October 24, 2019
    Available on: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
    Genre: Rhythm
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you Andromeda Entertainment for sending us an Early Access review code!

    Audio Trip is currently in Early Access and features ten electronic dance music (EDM) songs and will be released with twenty when it goes gold. The song list so far is impressive with popular artists and DJs including Benny Benassi, Deadmau5, Lady Gaga, and Skrillex. Even the songs that I was not familiar with are of high quality and fun to dance too.

    Each song has three different difficulty levels and the choreography on all of them is extremely well done and I don’t feel like a moron while playing. That doesn’t mean I don’t look funny dancing though. :) If you survive until the end of the song you’ll be able to submit your Steam name and score to online leaderboards.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great song selection and choreography
    Weak Points: Tracking issues on the Oculus Rift S
    Moral Warnings: One of the songs drops an f-bomb at the end

    Your left hand is purple and your right hand is orange. You must tap the colored triangles with the appropriate colored hand. Sometimes you’ll have to follow a colored path. Occasionally there will be colored drums to bang or a red wall to avoid. Last but not least, is a color specific arrow-like shape that you’ll have to swipe in a particular direction. Unfortunately, these arrows aren’t very clear and I often swipe in the wrong direction. The developers are working on improving this aspect of the game.

    A bigger problem I encountered was some tracking issues in the song Satisfaction. There’s a drum sequence there that doesn’t register properly on my Oculus Rift S. As a result, I often failed using the newest Rift headset. If I use my original Rift/Touch headset I’m able to pass the song without any trouble. Per the discord bug reporting channel, the developers are working on the hit detect logic for the drum sequences. Hopefully, that solves this problem. I look forward to beta testing and offering more feedback.

    Audio Trip
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 86%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10


    The game’s interface is pretty intuitive and easy to maneuver. I didn't notice the song's status bar or timer on the right-hand side of the score, but once it was pointed out to me, I was able to find it with no issues. I'm to hear that the swiping arrows will be redesigned to make them more legible.

    So far I’m impressed with the song list and enjoy all of the songs, except for the one with the f-bomb dropped at the end. The instrumental songs are family-friendly. The song titled Satisfaction could be interpreted as having sexual overtones.

    Though there is some room for improvement, Audio Trip is fun to play and has a lot of potential. I look forward to its development and well-polished final product. If you enjoy VR rhythm games, you should add this one to your Wishlist.

  • Avicii Invector (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    Avicii Invector
    Developed by: Hello There Games
    Published by: Wired Productions
    Available on: PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Release date: December 10, 2019
    Genre: Rhythm
    Number of players: Up to four
    ESRB Rating: Teen for language
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Wired Productions for sending us this game to review!

    In 2015 Tim Bergling began working with Hello There Games to combine his music with colorful and serene visuals. Since his untimely passing in 2018, Avicii’s family and foundation have helped with the completion of this project. Had I not known that Avicii had a part in this game, I would have assumed it to be a mere cash-in like so many movie-themed video games are these days. Thankfully, the end result is more than a tribute, Avicii Invector is a solid rhythm game that his fans would be proud of.

    The token story is an interesting one with a spunky ship captain who is aimlessly travelling space while avoiding returning to her home planet. It’s just her and her spaceship which breaks down often. As you unlock new areas, you’ll get to view cutscenes and learn more about her.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great music and gorgeous visuals
    Weak Points: Scoring is a little confusing
    Moral Warnings: Some songs have language (f*ck) though the lyrics are not displayed; blaspheming; crude hand gesture shown (middle finger); some songs have references to alcohol, drugs and sex

    Avicii Invector is broken down into six areas with several EDM hits in each one.  In order to advance to the next area you have to get a 75% or better on all of the songs in the current section.  In total, there are twenty-five songs and three different difficulties to play them on.   After each song you will be graded by your score and it will be submitted to an online leaderboard.  Though I have gotten many A’s, I won’t be dethroning anyone anytime soon as the scores can go up to an S+. 

    Though you can play this game with a keyboard, I highly recommend using a gamepad.  On the easiest difficulty you just need to use the left, X, and A buttons.  As you increase the difficulty, you’ll have to use more buttons.  The left button will have to get pressed or held down as you go through glowing triangles.  You’ll also have to rotate the triangles so your ship is lined up with the green (A button), and blue (X button) color ramps.  You need to press the matching button as your ship lines up with it.  Depending on your accuracy, you’ll be rated with perfect, great, good, or miss.  The better rating will net you more points.

    As you progress in the level, you may unlock the ability to boost.  As you can expect, it’s much faster and you’re still accountable for hitting each color-coded ramp, triangle and respective rotations.   There are also some free flying modes where you have to avoid obstacles and try to steer your ship through several circular gates.     

    Avicii Invector
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 76%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

    The letter grade scoring seems to be based on the overall score rather than the level completion percentage. I had a level completion rate in the 90s and received a B score and another in the high 80s and earned an A. That’s pretty much my only nitpick with this title from a gameplay perspective.

    Morally speaking there are some issues worth noting. One of the more catchy songs, Without You has the f-bomb in it. Thankfully, the lyrics are not displayed so you have to listen for it to catch it. A middle finger is shown in one of the cutscenes though. The song Lonely Together references drugs, drinking, and hooking up. Blaspheming occurs too.

    If you don’t mind those moral concerns, there’s a lot of fun to be had in Avicii Invector. The three difficulty levels are bound to keep you busy for a while. Local multiplayer is also available and supports up to four players via split screen.

  • Avicii Invector Encore Edition (Switch)

     

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    Game Info:

    Avicii Invector Encore Edition
    Developed by: Hello There Games
    Published by: Wired Productions
    Available on: PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Release date: September 8, 2020
    Genre: Rhythm
    Number of players: Up to four
    ESRB Rating: Teen for language
    Price: $29.99

    Thank you Wired Productions for sending us a review code!

    We reviewed and enjoyed Avicii Invector on PC and the stripped down mobile game, Beat Legend: Avicii. The love and care that went into these games since Tim Bergling’s passing in 2018 is apparent. Fans of his music can enjoy ten additional tracks in the encore edition bringing the grand total to 35. The $29.99 asking price is reasonable and saves a couple of dollars from buying the two DLCs (Magma Track Pack and Tim Track pack) separately.

    The gameplay and story remain the same. However, you can play the new tracks without completing the main story. The token story is an interesting one with a spunky ship captain who is aimlessly travelling space while avoiding returning to her home planet. It’s just her and her spaceship which breaks down often. As you unlock new areas, you’ll get to view cutscenes and learn more about her. In one cutscene she gets upset and draws a middle finger on a planet's surface.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great music and gorgeous visuals
    Weak Points: Scoring is a little confusing
    Moral Warnings: Songs with language have the offending words muted; blaspheming; middle finger hand gesture shown; lyrical references to alcohol, drugs and sex

    Visually, everything is the same as the PC version. I'm happy to report that this game ran smoothly on the Switch with no noticeable slowdowns. Being able to play this game on the go is nice.

    On the Easy difficulty you just need to use the left, Y, and B buttons. As you increase the difficulty, you’ll have to use more buttons. The left shoulder button will have to get pressed or held down as you go through glowing triangles. You’ll also have to rotate the triangles so your ship is lined up with the green (Y button), and yellow (B button) color ramps. You need to press the matching button as your ship lines up with it.

    As you progress in the level, you may unlock the ability to boost. As you can expect, it’s much faster and you’re still accountable for hitting each color-coded ramp, triangle and respective rotations. There are also some free flying modes where you have to avoid obstacles and try to steer your ship through several circular gates.

    Avicii Invector Encore Edition
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 76%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

    Depending on your accuracy, you’ll be rated with perfect, great, good, or miss. Combo streaks and perfect accuracy ratings will net you more points. In order to advance to the next area you have to get a 75% or better on all of the songs in the current section. The letter grade scoring seems to be based on the overall score rather than the level completion percentage. I had a level completion rate in the 90s and received a B score and another in the high 80s and earned an A. That’s pretty much my only nitpick with this title from a gameplay perspective. I managed to get one S+ on my play through but the majority of my songs were graded as A’s or B’s.

    Morally speaking there are some issues worth noting. One of the more catchy songs, Without You has the f-bomb in it. Thankfully, the lyrics are not displayed and it is muted out. The songs SOS and Lonely Together reference drugs, drinking, and hooking up. Blaspheming occurs too.

    If you don’t mind those moral concerns, there’s a lot of fun to be had in Avicii Invector Encore Edition. The four difficulty levels are bound to keep you busy for a while. Local multiplayer is also available and supports up to four players via split screen.

  • Beat Legend: Avicii (Android)

     

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    Game Info:

    Beat Legend: Avicii
    Developed by: Hello There Games
    Published by: Atari
    Release date: July 23, 2020
    Available on: Android, iOS
    Genre: Rhythm
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $2.99

    Thank you Atari for sending us a review code!

    Avicii was a very talented DJ who took his life in 2018. His parents founded the Tim Bergling Foundation mental health awareness/suicide prevention foundation in his honor. Royalties from this game will benefit this charitable organization.

    Beat Legend: Avicii features fifteen of his most popular songs. Some of the original songs like “Without You” have expletives in them, but thankfully they’ve been removed in this game. The tracks have a hard coded difficulty setting and there’s no way to change it. As a result, some of my favorites songs like “Levels” are at the hardest difficulty and I don’t do well playing it. Some tracks like “Lonely Together”, “Addicted to You”, and “SOS” have suggestive themes and/or drug references in them.

    Beat Legend: Avicii
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great selection of songs
    Weak Points: Cannot change the difficulty level of the songs
    Moral Warnings: Some of the songs allude to hooking up and doing drugs 

    I recently reviewed and thoroughly enjoyed Avicii Invector which is controller based and available on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. Beat Legend: Avicii is a $2.99 stripped down variant of the PC version. Avicii Invector is hands down a better game, but it’s also $20.

    Instead of focusing on pressing specific controller buttons, in Beat Legend: Avicii you have to tap the corresponding circles on the bottom of the screen when the beat lines up with them. Make sure that your device supports multi-touch or your score will be severely penalized. Depending on your timing, you’ll be rated with a Perfect, Great, Good, OK, or Miss. The tracks are multidimensional and you’ll have to swipe to the left and right when instructed to do so.

    Beat Legend: Avicii
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 86%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language – 10/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

    Most songs begin with only three circles and will occasionally have a fourth one. The harder songs have four circles more often than three. There are also free-flying sections where you have to guide your spaceship through glowing hoops in the sky. Some notes require you to hold them while catching the others flying by. You’ll often find beats with multiplier values and you’ll want to get these to give your score a nice boost.

    At the end of the song you’ll be scored by your longest streak and how many notes you have successfully hit versus the ones you’ve missed. If you’re not happy with the letter grade you’re given, you can always try again. I mostly got B’s and C’s.

    If you’re a fan of Avicii’s electronic dance music, you’ll be happy with the song selection. If you enjoy Rhythm games, Beat Legend: Avicii is definitely worth looking into. Despite the Everyone and ages 4+ ratings on the mobile store pages, there is some mature content worth considering. I wish there were different difficulty settings, but for $2.99, I can’t complain too much!

  • Dance Central Spotlight (Xbox One)

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    Game Info:

    Dance Central Spotlight
    Developed by: Harmonix
    Published by: Microsoft
    Release Date: September 2, 2014
    Available on: Xbox One
    Genre: Rhythm
    Number of players: Up to two players
    ESRB Rating:Teen for Mild Lyrics
    Price: $9.99

    I haven't played a Harmonix game since Guitar Hero, and after playing Dance Central Spotlight I was quickly reminded about how awesome they are at making music based games.  There are many great videogames that provide good exercise routines.  If you like to work out to music there's options like Dance Dance Revolution, Just Dance, Zumba, and Dance Central.

    Dance Central, along with its two sequels, have been around since the Xbox 360 and is an Xbox exclusive.  Like its predecessors, Dance Central Spotlight requires a Kinect camera and is only available on the Xbox One.  Having played a couple of iterations of Just Dance, I must say that Dance Central Spotlight is much better.  The dance moves are not as corny.

    Like Just Dance, you have to mirror the moves that the dancer on the screen is doing.  If you mimic the move flawlessly, it will be added to your move collection.  New dance routines are unlocked as you collect more and more moves.  Each song has eight routines available for it.

    While the game's price is a reasonable $10, it doesn't come with many songs.  You are encouraged to build your own work library for $2.00 a song.  If you want to save fifty cents you can buy packs of three prearranged songs for $5.49. 

    Here's a list of the included tracks:

    • #thatPOWER
    • Counting Stars
    • Diamonds
    • Happy
    • I Wish
    • Royals
    • Show Me
    • Talk Dirty
    • Titanium
    • Wake Me Up
    Dance Central Spotlight
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun dancing game with many dance routines to unlock; very accurate
    Weak Points: Comes with only ten songs; Kinect camera occasionally gets confused and shuffles or drops players
    Moral Warnings: Some songs have sexual references;  suggestive dance moves

    Out of the starter songs, Counting Stars, Diamonds, and Happy are my favorites.  The other songs are alright but from the get go there are some suggestive themes and lyrics.  Some of the dance moves use hip and chest thrusts. 

    The remainder of the songs are up to the buyer to purchase and thankfully the Xbox One provides methods of securing purchases so I don't have to worry about my kids expanding the workout library without my knowledge.  I did add Psy's Gangnam Style to my collection for them though.

    There are lots of artists to get more tracks from including Bruno Mars, Fat Boy Slim,  Janet Jackson, Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga,  Maroon 5, One Direction, and Selena Gomez.  Most of the songs are from this millennium but a few oldies are thrown in like A-ha's Take On Me.   

    Dance Central Spotlight
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 91%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    While two dollars a song may seem expensive, there are eight routines per song so you can get a lot of moves and calories burned with each purchase.  Each song has four classic routines (beginner, standard, deluxe, and pro), two fitness routines (strength and cardio), and two random routines.  One of the random routines I unlocked was called manly.  The moves were still not manly enough for my husband to complete a whole song.  

    My kids and mom were eager to join me in multiplayer in his absence though.   A second player can easily join by waving their hand when the screen prompts that a second player has been detected.  While it is easy for people to join in, keeping them in the game is another story.  Sometimes the Kinect loses track of a player and will drop them.  Worse yet, when they get re-added to the game, the scores, players, and positions may get swapped!    

    Another annoyance is the game's camera controls.  You can navigate the menu and choose your character and song title without using a controller, but the problem is that this method isn't perfect.  So  many times the wrong character was selected and the song was started without the ability to confirm or change the selection.   For accuracy I used a game controller when playing by myself, but there is no multi-controller support with multiple players.  

    Despite some minor annoyances, my workouts have been fun and productive while playing Dance Central Spotlight.  I like the option to build my own library.  However I wish the starter songs were all family friendly.  The $9.99 asking price is very reasonable and I highly recommend this title if you're looking for a fun way to burn some calories.

  • Double Kick Heroes (Xbox One )

     

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    Game Info:

    Double Kick Heroes
    Developed by: Headbang Club
    Published by: Plug In Digital
    Release date: August 28, 2020
    Available on: Linux, macOS, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Rhythm
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for violence, suggestive themes, strong language
    Price: $21.99

    Thank you Plug In Digital for sending us this game to review!

    In the not so distant future, Los Angeles is overrun with zombies. Unaware of the situation, your band performs a heavy metal concert only to find that the entire audience is undead. In a panic, they flee in their getaway car but are being chased by all sorts of creatures.

    There are two-lane roads and you have to use different guns (upper and lower) to hit the monsters in their respective lanes. On the bottom of the screen you’ll see notes sliding from the right to the left and when they align with your cursor you have to press the button to shoot the weapon of your choice. As your kill streak increases, your weapon will automatically upgrade to something better. Some of the brighter notes are more powerful so you definitely won’t want to miss those. Especially during boss fights!

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good music; nice pixel art;  wide variety of enemies; fun gameplay
    Weak Points: Can’t enjoy this with my kids
    Moral Warnings: Strong language (bosses are referred to as mother f’ers); occult symbolism; hell themed levels and you can battle against Satan; blood and dismemberment; zombies; female characters show some skin

    There are four game modes and five difficulties. The daily challenge keeps the content fresh and by competing in it, you can unlock better gear that grants attack bonuses. Be careful though as you will be docked for button mashing in this mode. If you just want to pick up and play, the arcade mode is a nice place to start. A story mode is available if you want to read dialogue about the band’s journey to hell. In the Hellgate mode you can play to user-created songs.

    The game modes are tied to the difficulty you set so progress will be lost if you decide to change the difficulty level. The different difficulties are: Rock, Hard Rock, Metal, Violence, Extreme. The harder difficulties give you more notes, so have your fingers ready! During the boss battles, you can have the game steer automatically or take control of it yourself for an added challenge. You get three lives so there is some leeway for mistakes.

    To keep things interesting, you’ll be pumping bullets and throwing grenades at a wide variety of enemies including zombies, birds, dogs, dinosaurs, and huge vehicles. The final boss is Satan. It should come as no surprise that this game celebrates the occult with many hell-themed levels and pentagrams everywhere.

    Double Kick Heroes
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay: 17/20
    Graphics: 8/10
    Sound: 9/10
    Stability: 5/5
    Controls: 5/5

    Morality Score - 57%
    Violence: 2/10
    Language: 5/10
    Sexual Content: 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural: 3/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10/10

    The heavy metal music is well done and quite catchy. Some of the songs are sung in different languages so I don’t know what they’re singing about. At least one of the other songs has foul language (b*tch) in it. One of the band groups featured is Genital Absolution.

    As you shoot down zombies and other creatures, they’ll bleed and often drop body parts as you send them into eternity. Inappropriate hand gestures are shown as well as immodest attire for one of the female band members who shows off her belly.

    If you enjoy heavy metal and rhythm games and are not concerned with strong language and occult themes, you’ll probably enjoy Double Kick Heroes. Because of the satanic themes and strong language, I don’t recommend this game for children or Christians.

  • Drums Hero (Oculus Rift)

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    Game Info:

    Drums Hero
    Developed by: Player of Music Technology
    Published by: Player of Music Technology
    Release date: March 23, 2017
    Available on: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
    Genre: Rhythm
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you Player of Music Technology for sending us this game and Indie Music Pack DLC bundle to review!

    In virtual reality, you can be almost anything and anywhere you want to be. While I haven’t played the VR version of Rock Band, I have enjoyed the PS4 version. Any aspiring drummer should seriously look into this title. It’s a lot quieter than a full drum setup so parents may want to keep this game in mind as well.

    I’ll confess that I haven’t played drums much so I don’t know the specifics, but after playing the pro level songs I have a new respect for drummers. All of the drum pieces seem to be represented: tom-toms, bass drum, cymbals, and a snare drum. There is also a wide variety of songs and genres to play.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun gameplay; good selection and variety of music; online leaderboards
    Weak Points: Not all of the songs have lyrics displayed; detection isn’t 100% accurate
    Moral Warnings: Some of the songs reference chasing skirts and one night stands

    The music is provided by indie artists and though I never heard of any of them, I did enjoy the quality and selection provided. Most of the sounds are hard and rock styles, but there are some pop and electronic tracks to play as well. Since this game’s release there have been more songs added and I look forward to the library continuing to grow.

    Not surprisingly, Drums Hero plays very similarly to Guitar Hero. The music track is laid out like a road with notes coming toward your drum set. You have to hit the corresponding drum part which it lines up with it on the bottom of the screen. The appropriate drums will illuminate when it’s almost time to use them. Some of the songs have their lyrics displayed but most of them do not unfortunately.

    There are different drum sets and I prefer the futuristic space themed layout over the music stage set. The default theme has the sides of the music track changing colors as you get a higher and higher multiplier combo. I like how you can pause the game easily if you get a phone call or a kitten stuck to your dangling wrist straps.

    Drums Hero
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Depending on your timing, you will get a perfect, great, good, or a miss rating. At the end of the song, you will receive a grade that is based off of your final score. If your computer is online, your ranking and score will automatically be submitted and compared on the online leaderboards. I don’t anticipate knocking out the top two hundred score holders anytime soon.

    Visually, Drums Hero looks good and the interface is pretty easy to use. I learned the hard way not to launch the game from the Oculus software as it would hang and fail to start up. I also had to launch the game multiple times in Steam if the controllers are not detected (despite Steam VR saying they’re present).

    The controls are pretty responsive though depth perception on my end could be to blame for most of the misses. With that said, I could have sworn I hit the proper drum at the correct time and did not get credit for it on multiple occasions. This could also be attributed to tracking issues.

    In the end, my experience with Drums Hero has been a positive one. My son and nephew enjoyed playing it and the songs from what I can tell are family friendly. I didn’t recall hearing any cussing though there is a reference to chasing skirts and one night stands. On the flipside, one of the songs seemed to have a Christian message to it. If you enjoy drums, indie music, and VR, Drums Hero is worth checking out!

  • Drums of War (Oculus Rift S)

     

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    Game Info:

    Drums of War
    Developed by: Grind Core Games LLC
    Published by: Grind Core Games LLC
    Available on: Windows
    Release date: October 1, 2019
    Genre: Rhythm
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Grind Core Games LLC for sending us a review code!

    The orcs used to dwell in the mountains until the dwarves drove them out. With the help of the war drums, they hope to become kings of the mountains once more. Learning to play the war drums is covered in the tutorial after fumbling through the game’s menu a bit.

    Firing the cannons is done by banging on the two center drums.  The left and right drums next to the center two are in charge of rotating and aligning the front cannons.  The back right and left drums are used for side-stepping and dodging attacks.  Some of the dwarves have underground attacks that will have to be dodged by getting out of the way quickly.  

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great music; multiple game modes
    Weak Points: Weird interface; the drums are still too low even at the highest settings
    Moral Warnings: Explosions; green blood; scantily clad succubi, flaming skeletons

    Many enemies are up in the air like balloon flying dwarves, giant spiders, and scantily clad succubi.   In order to take down these foes you’ll have to bang your drum sticks together.  Ammo is unlimited, but your health is not.  I didn’t see a health bar so I was always caught off guard when I died and had to start over.  

    The main campaign has fifteen levels that take place in various surroundings like mountains, caves, swamps, and more. If you see a dwarven settlement, it’s in your best interest to destroy it. Demolishing jails will free some orcs to help take out some enemies for you. They’re not very strong or useful, so don’t get your hopes up.

    There’s a decent variety of enemies to contend with. If you don’t destroy their spawners, they’ll keep coming. Every kill will leave behind a skull that is used along with gold to purchase better drums sets. Most of the drum sets increase your health, so they’re worth investing in. Along with enemies and other obstacles, you’ll also have to overcome some bosses. The health boosts will be useful when fighting them!

    Drums of War
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay: 15/20
    Graphics: 7/10
    Sound: 8/10
    Stability: 5/5
    Controls/Interface: 3/5

    Morality Score - 74%
    Violence: 3.5/10
    Language: 10/10
    Sexual content: 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural: 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10/10

    Since this game was developed by the lead designer of Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock and Guitar Hero Metallica, it should come as no surprise that there’s a Drum Hero mode. In this mode, you have a music track for each drum and you have to quickly dispatch the enemies coming from multiple directions. If you want a more relaxing or musical experience, you’ll want to check out the Jukebox mode where you can bang the drums freely while listening to musical tracks from bands like Warbringer, Wind Rose, and Exmortus.

    The game’s interface can use some tweaking. Though the drum height can be adjusted, even on their highest setting they seemed to be too low. Thankfully, the drumsticks are pretty long and are still able to reach the drums. Other than that, this title ran well.

    From a moral perspective, there are a few issues worth noting. If you’re not a fan of heavy metal music or giant spiders, this game isn’t for you. There is blood, but it’s mostly green. Lastly, the succubi are barely clothed.

    If you enjoy playing drums, Guitar Hero, or games like Donkey Konga, Drums of War is worth looking into. The asking price is a reasonable $14.99 but has been on sale for around $10. It’s worth adding to your Wishlist if you don’t mind the practically naked succubi.

  • Floor Kids (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Floor Kids
    Developed by: MERJ Media
    Published by: MERJ Media
    Release date: May 16,2018
    Available on: macOS, Switch, Windows
    Genre: Rhythm, Sports
    Number of Players: Up to two
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you MERJ Media for sending us this game to review!

    Floor Kids is a surprisingly deep rhythm breakdancing game. Your goal is to win over crowds in various locales by dancing with funk, flavor, flow, and flyness. You have to keep your moves fresh and not do the same thing over and over again. The crowd will occasionally make requests, and if you honor them, you’ll get some points that help toward earning more stars for your performance.

    If you receive at least three stars for a song, you’ll get a player card that can be used to unlock a new character if all four of their cards are collected. Each of the eight dancers have different specialties in the four dancing categories: Top Rock, Down Rock, Power, and Freeze. New venues open up when their star requirements are met. One of the final venues requires seventy stars and all of the dancers to be unlocked.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun and unique breakdancing game; local multiplayer
    Weak Points: No online play
    Moral Warnings: None!

    Each location has several levels with different music tracks for everyone. The soundtrack is quite good and available for purchase on Steam for $8.99. At the beginning of the stage you’ll get a countdown and it’s up to you to feel the rhythm and dance to it. Every song has a couple of chorus sections where you’ll have to press the X button where indicated and mash it repeatedly shortly afterward. These sections are worth big points so you won’t want to take them too lightly. There’s a Steam achievement for earning a perfect score on one. I haven’t unlocked that achievement yet, but I did get one for acing both chorus sections in a song.

    To earn a lot of points you’ll need to weave your moves together with style and keep the crowd happy. If you mix up the dance styles you’ll earn freshness points. Thankfully, the crowd requests aren’t specific, but the chain combos are. I’ve been more of a button masher so I haven’t put enough effort into learning each of the moves intentionally. According to the Steam achievements, I have unlocked all of the characters’ moves on accident though!

    Floor Kids
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 100%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The unfinished hand-drawn artwork is really neat. I like the look and feel of this game. The characters are nicely animated and the venues are unique. Though the music isn’t my style, it does fit the game nicely.

    There’s plenty to do if you’re playing solo. If you have a friend nearby you can challenge them to a dance battle in the local multiplayer mode. This mode is more challenging with the "burn" mechanic. As your opponent is dancing you can charge up a burn by tapping to the beat. Once the burn meter is full, you can attempt to burn your opponent and knock them down for points. The person dancing can temporarily use a shield to block an attack, but the timing has to be precise to be effective. The chorus mode is shared for both dancers. The breakdancer with the most points at the end of the song wins.

    Floor Kids is suitable for want-to-be breakdancers of all ages. You’ll have plenty of fun mashing buttons, but to get good you’ll have to memorize and stylize all of the moves at your disposal. The asking price of $19.99 is a bit steep, but I have seen it on sale for less than $14 and it’s worth it at that price point.

  • FourChords Guitar Karaoke (PC) (Preview)

     

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    Game Info:

    FourChords Guitar Karaoke
    Developed by: Musopia
    Published by: Musopia
    Release Date: July 19, 2016
    Available on: Android, iOS, PC, Mac, SteamOS/Linux
    Genre: Edutainment
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Musopia for sending us this game to review!

    I really enjoyed playing Guitar Hero and Rock Band when they first came out.  When multiple instruments were introduced, I still stuck with the guitar.  Even though my mom and brother knew how to play guitar, I never expressed interest until a video game offered to teach me.  That game is FourChords Guitar Karaoke.  

    Unlike Rock Band or Guitar Hero, you will not be playing in five minutes if you’ve never played a real guitar before.  Before you can play any song you will have to learn at least three chords and have your fingers prepared for the strain that will be placed upon them.  Not only will your fingers be stretched in new ways, they will also endure some pain by holding down metal strings repeatedly.  It will take a few weeks to develop some callouses on them.    

    If you’re okay with the time and pain requirements, there’s a lot to like in FourChords Guitar Karaoke.  Since this game is in early access, it’s hard to say what the final version will have, but bundled into it at the time of this review are one hundred and ten songs broken into four categories. All of the songs are available from the start and you don't have to unlock any of them. 

     
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great way to learn how to strum and play guitar; instructional videos from JustinGuitar.com are integrated into the program
    Weak Points: Computer generated songs without vocals are used
    Moral Warnings: Some of the included songs have mild language (hell/d*mn) and suggestive themes; drinking references

    The categories are Traditional/Starter, Country Starter, Rock Starter and Pop Starter.  The song selection is pretty good and there should be something for everyone to enjoy.  The mobile versions are free and allow the users to build up their music library by purchasing songs of their own choosing.  I’m curious what DLC offerings will be available for this title down the road.  

    The song list can be filtered by the chords you know, but I also enjoyed playing songs that I liked even though I couldn’t play them fully yet.  When selecting a song, you will see the chords and have the option of seeing a tutorial video (courtesy of JustinGuitar.com) for each of the chords used.  There is also a fingering chart for chords, and one and three string finger positions.  You can also view and learn the strumming technique and change the BPM to your liking

    Some songs like Amazing Grace, House of the Rising Sun, and I’m Yours have a simple down strum technique while other songs have more complex ones.  The Holy Grail Strum (down down up up down) is used by many songs including Get Lucky, Counting Stars, Born to Be Wild, Don't Stop Belivein', and Sweet Child of Mine.  The song Royals (known by me as Weird Al’s Foil) uses Basic 16ths strumming (down down up down down down up down down down).  An intermediate 16ths strum (down down down up up down up down down down up) is used in Me and My Broken Heart and Higher.  Even though Oh! Susanna has three chords, it’s a rather fast song at 160BPM and has a unique strumming pattern called Shoot em' ups (down down down up down up).  I recommend focusing on learning and transitioning chords and sticking with simple down strums at the beginning.   

    FourChords Guitar Karaoke
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 84%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    Some of the songs listed above  have moral issues worth mentioning.  I love Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours, but it does have the word d*mn in the lyrics. Other songs like Get Lucky and Me and My Broken Heart have sexual references in them.  Last but not least, House of the Rising Sun talks about drinking and gambling.  Amazing Grace is in the song list so they’re not all bad.

    The songs are computer generated and are not what you hear on the radio.  There is no actual singing as the game expects you to do it!  Singing is purely optional and I just focused on playing the guitar.  No matter how well you play or sing, the game will say that you rocked upon completion.  If you're into Steam trading cards, they're available in this game.  

    Even if you don’t care for the Karaoke aspect of this game, it’s an excellent teaching tool and I highly recommend it for any aspiring guitar players out there.  The Early Access price of $14.99 is very reasonable.  The free teaching video series by JustinGuitar.com is excellent and run by a donation honor system.  I recommend learning the G, D, and C chords from there so you can play a few of the songs from the get go.

     

  • Fuser (PS4)

     

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    Game Info:

    Fuser
    Developed by: Harmonix
    Published by: NCSoft
    Release date: November 9, 2020
    Available on: PS4, Switch, Xbox One
    Number of players: 1-12 players online
    Genre: Rhythm
    ESRB Rating: Teen for mild lyrics and mild suggestive themes
    Price: $59.99-$99.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Harmonix for sending us the VIP edition to review!

    Harmonix has been around since 1995 and I have enjoyed many of their music-based games including Dance Central, Rock Band, and Guitar Hero. I also thoroughly enjoyed DJ Hero 1 & 2 which were published by Activision. As fun as many of those games are, I’m glad that the era of plastic video game accessories is long gone. I get the same satisfaction of mixing together multiple songs as a DJ via software instead of requiring a dust-collecting, battery-sucking controller.

    Upon launching the game you’ll get to customize your character and some of the outfits are rather revealing. I never dreamed of wearing a business suit jacket without a shirt before! Once your character is customized, you’ll be prompted to calibrate the audio for accuracy.

    This game takes place at a (pre-COVID) audio festival called FUSER where any aspiring DJ can take the stage. Lucky for you, you’ll get shown the ropes by many up and coming DJs who get weirder throughout the game. One of the guides is non-binary and another one acts like a hippie. There are six venues to play at and you’ll work your way from the early morning shows to the midnight rave timeslots.

    Each venue typically has six time slots and they are usually themed by musical genres and/or time periods. Before each set you’ll want to customize your song list to match the tastes of the crowd. Some of the genres like Country or Latin only have a few songs to choose from. Be sure to buy songs with in-game money to cover all music types! Along with music tracks you’ll also get to select your synthesizer instruments and distortion effects.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Lots of music to fully customize and integrate with other tracks and genres
    Weak Points: Experienced multiple game crashes (usually right after waking the PS5 up from rest mode); the controls are a little finicky at times
    Moral Warnings: Some language (hell, *ss); blaspheming; sexualized lyrics; some very revealing and bra-lass outfits available

    Once your crate is filled, you can start the venue. I always handpicked my songs and effects, but there is an auto-fill option available if you’re in a rush. Your DJ guide will give you some suggestions on how to begin your songs and maintain the crowd’s interest. Many of the suggestions have a time limit, but some of them will have an infinite amount of time to complete. Completing the requests will score you some points, but ignoring them is possible too. People in the crowd will also make requests and you can get bonus points by completing multiple requests at once. The songs are sorted by artist, year, genre, and instruments used. People in the audience will ask to hear specific instruments, time periods, and genres.

    You’ll have four turntables that have default modes for backdrop, base, synthesizer, and vocals. Later in the game you’ll learn how to double up and override their default configuration. Timing is everything and you’ll want to swap tracks, change the tempo, key, and scale on beat. If you miss the beat, the audience will be disappointed. Queuing up and fading in/out songs is also crucial for keeping the audience engaged. To add originality to your mixes you can create your own string, drum, and synthesizer loops, or just play on the fly!

    Depending on your performance, you can get up to five stars per stage. Replaying them is always a possibility if you want to improve your score or just earn experience to level up your character. As your deejay levels up, they will earn style coins for customizing their wardrobe and music tokens for buying music with in-game currency. DLC songs are available for purchase with real money and new songs are added weekly. Songs in this game are like LEGOs; the more you have available, the better stuff you can make!

    Some of the in-game songs unlock after certain venues or level requirements are met. The songs that have a level requirement will take many hours of grinding to unlock. Purchased songs are immediately available. While the main game boats of over 100 songs, the VIP edition comes with twenty-five additional DLC songs and some exclusive attire. There’s a wide variety of artists and music genres available.

    The subject matter of the songs vary and some of the tracks talk about drinking and hooking up. There is some language (hell, *ss) in the game as well. I didn't hear any stronger language than that so the tracks may be edited. I did hear some blaspheming though.

    Fuser
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay: 17/20
    Graphics: 8/10
    Sound: 10/10
    Stability: 3/5
    Controls: 4/5

    Morality Score - 70%
    Violence: 10/10
    Language: 5/10
    Sexual Content: 2/10
    Occult/Supernatural: 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 8/10

    Fuser uses the Unreal engine and visually it looks great. The venues are all unique with plenty of eye candy. There’s a lot of variety of looks and outfits you can apply to your character.

    Online battles and collaborations are a possibility if you have PlayStation Plus. You can also share your mixes with the world if you deem them worthy enough. I was happy to get three stars on my performances.

    The controls can be a little finicky at times as the DJ guide will tell you to drop a disc, but there are multiple ways to do so. If you don’t do it as they intend you won’t get credit for it. My only other complaint is that this title crashed upon waking the PS5 from rest mode on multiple occasions.

    If you ever dreamed of making your own music mixes, Fuser will scratch the itch nicely. I recommend getting the VIP edition so you have more songs to make masterpieces with. 20% off sales make this game even more affordable on the PlayStation store. With new songs dropping every week, there's plenty of replay value if you're okay with DLC purchases.

  • Gal Metal (Switch)

     

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    Game Info:

    Gal Metal
    Developed by: DMM Games
    Published by: Marvelous
    Release date: October 30, 2018
    Available on: Switch
    Genre: Rhythm
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for fantasy violence and suggestive themes
    Price: $29.99

    Thank you Marvelous for sending us this game to review!

    Earth is under attack from the Octoid alien race and it’s up to a high school boy and girl who get fused together in the female’s body to save the world. As luck would have it, the girl happens to be the president of the Kichijoji Metal Girls band and the aliens are vulnerable to the metal particles produced from their heavy metal music. As the drummer of the band, the power to save the universe is in your hands!

    Gal Metal can be played in one of two ways. The easier way to play the game is in the Noodle mode where you get to move the Joy-Cons air drum style. There’s a limit to the noises you can make in that mode, but the patterns and rhythms are endless. In Drum mode, there’s a drum set on the screen and you can tap the various drum components to make a more complex beat. Experienced and aspiring drummers may prefer that method.

    In total, there are thirteen sets to play, and before facing off against the alien invaders, you get to choose how to spend your time to prepare for “battle.” At the beginning of each day, you’ll participate in a group chat with your fellow bandmates and discuss various lighthearted topics. The text moves pretty fast at times and it’s hard to keep up with the conversation as a result. You’ll often be prompted to provide input on the discussion which may determine the popular hangout place or story sequence for that day.

    Gal Metal
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Cheaper and quieter alternative to a real drum set
    Weak Points: The campaign isn’t very long, but you can still do free play mode and/or master the two different drum styles
    Moral Warnings: Minor language (hell); cartoon violence; some mild sexual humor as a high school boy and girl are sharing the same girl’s body

    Each day you get forty stamina points which can be spent doing solo or group practices, working, or hanging out/playing around town. If you choose an activity that one of your bandmates is doing you’ll strengthen your relationship with them. As your friendship develops you’ll unlock story sequences that are usually pretty funny to watch. The activities you choose also impact your various playing stats: Morality, Kvit, Activity, Passion, and Guts. These stats impact your score and can make or break the final results in battle. By working, you’ll boost one stat, while other options will add to one stat and reduce the other. There are in-game achievements for increasing your stats and friendship levels. When all of your stamina for the day is spent, the day will end and progress the main story.

    If you just want to jam without the story, you can practice or free play the individual tracks from the main menu. The control scheme can also be adjusted from the menu but you have to be configured for the currently selected one in order to change it to the other. For example, if you’re in Noodle mode you have to have the Joy-Cons unattached in order to change to the Drum mode.

    The 2D paper cutout/comic book style artwork is neat. The main story is shown via comic book panels and the daytime events have a Paper Mario feel to them.

    Gal Metal
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 82%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    There isn’t any voice acting, but the backtracks for the songs more than make up for it. My favorite track is the Beethoven’s Ode to Joy themed one called Distorted Synopsis of Joy. After every battle you can watch a replay of your performance. I wasn’t inclined to re-watch my performance and I agree with the after-performance critiques of my drumming to be either repetitive or off rhythm.

    Morally speaking, Gal Metal is pretty tame as long as you don’t mind heavy metal music. One of the songs has the word ‘hell’ in the title. With the premise of the boy and girl sharing the same body there could have been way more sexual jokes in this title, but none of them come to mind. The PG-rated movie Your Name had more objectionable content in that regard.

    In the end, Gal Metal is a short but fun rhythm game. It’s much cheaper than a drum set so it may scratch that itch for an aspiring drummer. The asking price is $29.99 which is a tad steep for a story mode that can be completed in three hours. Granted, the Noodle mode does get tiring after a while so breaks are recommended. Switching between the Noodle and Drum mode may extend the gameplay somewhat. With that said, if you like drumming and rhythm games, Gal Metal is worth checking out. If you’re unsure, it’s best to wait for a sale.

  • Giraffe and Annika (Switch)

     

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    Game Info:

    Giraffe and Annika
    Developed by: Atelier Mimina
    Published by: NIS America
    Available on: PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Release date: August 25, 2020
    Genre: Adventure, Rhythm
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone with alcohol reference, mild fantasy violence, mild suggestive themes
    Price: $29.99

    Thank you NIS America for sending us a review code!

    Giraffe and Annika begins with the young girl, Annika, waking up on Spica island with no memories. She is quickly introduced to a young boy named Giraffe who knows her name and is familiar with the island and its secrets. To help regain her memories, Giraffe suggests that Annika retrieves three star fragments that are located in different dungeons.

    Naturally, each of the fragments is protected by a boss who needs to be defeated in a rhythm style mini-game. The majority of this title plays like an adventure game. With the acquisition of each star fragment Annika will learn a new ability that will be needed to retrieve the others.

    In the beginning, Annika can barely jump, swim, or run. These abilities are acquired when Annika retrieves the three star fragments. Another limiter in this game is keys. Without the properly colored key, Annika won’t be able to open gates to access new areas on the island. The same keys work on color-coded doors that often have useful items or meowsterpieces behind them.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun gameplay with a nice difficulty balance
    Weak Points: The visuals don’t look that good when played on a big screen; more expensive than the PC version; loading screens
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; ghosts; there’s an island goddess that you have to make harvest offerings to; one of the female character wears an outfit that reveals her midriff

    There are thirty meowsterpieces to collect and you’ll need to find close to half of them to complete the game. There’s an art collecting ghost on the island that will hand out prizes for contributing to his collection. The first prize is a sailor outfit you can dress Annika in. The second prize is a train ticket that is necessary to access the final area in this game.

    Though there are a couple of nice ghosts on the island, most of them attack Annika on the spot. Unfortunately, Annika does not have the means to fight back unless she’s in a boss/rhythm battle. During the boss battles Annika can move to the left, center, and right positons. On the left and right hand side are circles that have to have the A button pressed when the Rhythmo Balls are aligned with it. The green balls only need one press while the blue ones require holding the button down until they’re gone. The enemies will also throw in projectile attacks that will need to be dodged. Some of their attacks will immobilize you for a few seconds causing you to miss some Rhythmo Balls and deplete your health bar.

    The island has a few inhabitants on it that will seek Annika’s assistance. In return they’ll offer some helpful advice and items to help Annika on her journey. One of the quests involves Annika playing matchmaker for a shy girl named Mary who likes a boy whose name is a mystery to her. Many of the characters on the island have greater significance to Annika as the story progresses.

    Giraffe and Annika
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay: 17/20
    Graphics: 7/10
    Sound: 8/10
    Controls: 5/5
    Stability: 5/5

    Morality Score - 82%
    Violence: 8/10
    Language: 10/10
    Sexual Content: 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural: 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10/10

    Giraffe and Annika’s story sequences are told through comic book-style panels. The dialogue is not voice acted, and half of the text is various sounds effects like “Sqreeeee!”, “Boom!”, “Pow!”, etc. The game is broken down into daytime and nighttime sequences. The background music changes during the morning, afternoon, and evening. The dungeons are only open during the day or evening. If you’ve arrived at the wrong time, you can sleep in nearby beds to advance the time. Some quests have to be triggered at a specific time and in order to know that, you’ll have to find and equip the stopwatch.

    The character design, 2D artwork, and animations look cute. However, when running this game docked and using a big screen, the 3D models don’t look that good. With that said, the game ran fine on the Switch. It doesn’t look bad on the small screen/undocked.

    Morally, there are some concerns. Violence is minimal as Annika takes damage from ghosts that hurl water, flames, and tornados at her. She must also dodge huge rolling boulders and lava as they will immediately kill Annika if she makes contact with them. There are several goddess statues on the island that need to have harvest (apples, carrots, pumpkins) offerings made to them. Lastly, one of the female characters wears a bikini-style outfit that shows off her midriff.

    Giraffe and Annika is a charming title. I found the difficulty of it “just right” with a hard enough difficulty to challenge without inducing rage quit. The boss battles have three difficulty modes so you can adjust that aspect of the game. There is an achievement available for completing this game in 4.5 hours, but my playthrough was 8.5. I have seen this game as low as $14.99 on Steam; I’m not sure why the Switch version has a much higher price tag of $30. It’s worth checking out if you can find it on sale.

  • Guitar Hero World Tour (PS3)

     

    Available for PS3, Xbox, Wii
    Released: October 26, 2008
    Developed By: Neversoft
    Published By: Activision
    ESRB Rated: Teen

    Guitar Hero is no longer just for guitars. You can now play with Guitar Hero instruments or Rock Band ones, unless you have a Wii then the instruments are not compatible. There is support for Guitar, bass, Drum, and vocal musicians. This is Neversoft’s strike back against Harmonix’ Rock Band. Guitar Hero World Tour (GHWT) supports online battles and music submission. Another new feature is the ability to custom create your own rocker. The typical Single and Band campaigns are available. When playing in a band, the leader has to be present but the other players can be local or online. Songs for Quick Play are unlocked as you complete the campaign modes. The boss battles are different now as they don\'t rely on power ups anymore.

    Along with the typical difficulty levels (easy, medium, hard, expert), a new mode called Beginner has been added. In the beginner mode you don’t have to worry about the fret buttons since you just have to strum, and on drums, they allow the player to hit any drum. This is a great mode for younger kids. The basic game play goes as follows. You have different colored fret bars on the guitar and different color drums and when you see a colored note line up on the bottom you have to strum and press the corresponding colored fret bar or hit the corresponding drum. It takes some coordination and getting used to but it’s pretty easy to pick up. There are some tutorials that will show you the basics, how to gain and use star power, and advanced techniques. I highly recommend watching them if you’re new to this game. For drummers, Rock Band has a much better experience as star power is extremely difficult to pull off, at least on Rock Band drums. You have to hit both center pads at the same time, which is not easy in the middle of a song with no breaks. Rock Band gives you places to use it. Bassists are now required to only strum at times, there is still a good amount of fret work for them too.

    Whether you play solo or in a band, the campaign mode is pretty much like the previous titles. There are typically five songs in a gig with an encore at the end. You\'ll earn money based on how well you play the songs and on what difficulty you played them at. If you fail you can change the difficulty of the song you\'re playing at; you\'ll have to restart the song, but your progress in the gig won\'t be lost. I like how when you resume a song it will give you a five second count down to ready up. Gigs are typically unlocked as you progress but some of the gigs can by purchased at anytime. You can also make your own gigs of up to six songs if you need to earn some money.

    The song list is pretty impressive and all of the tracks are original masters, as there are no cover bands. There are eighty six songs bundled with the game. Some of the songs are classic rock, some are pop, and some are heavy metal. In other words there’s something for everyone here. Some of the bands include Nirvana, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, Foo Fighters, Eagles, Michael Jackson, Pat Benetar, Lenny Kravitz, Van Halen, Willie Nelson, Blondie, Korn, Jimi Hendrix, and more. I didn’t like a few of the tracks and some of the songs aren’t even in English. I don’t mind La Bamba (especially with Ozzy singing it), but there are some other heavy metal foreign tongue songs here.

    If you have at least four members in your band you can compete online in a Battle of the Bands. The single player head to head battles are fun. In the Head to head battles the music track is divided up and whoever plays better, wins. I certainly don\'t miss the power up based boss battles.

    The downloadable content is pretty impressive. There are songs from Queen, Nirvana, Eagles, The Smashing Pumpkins, Wings, Queen, Motorhead and more. The Metallica Album Death Magnetic for Guitar Hero 3 is compatible with GHWT. All of the downloadable content and many of the in-game songs will be playable in Guitar Hero 5 and Band Hero.

    The graphics are great in this game and the 3D rendering of Jimi Hendrix, Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Corrigan are great. The facial expressions and mouth movements are spot on. The venues are colorful and wonderfully detailed. I have no complaints here.

    Since this is a music game, the music has to sound great. The music for the most part, sounded good. There is a song performed by Jimi Hendrix that has a lower quality recording but you have to take into the consideration the age of the recording.

    From an Appropriateness standpoint, this is clearly a Rock \'n Roll game. If you don’t like Rock \'n Roll, this isn’t the game for you. There are good Christian alternatives like Heavenly Harmony and Guitar Praise. There is some language and drug references and some of the female rockers can use more clothes. A couple of the questionable songs include Da***it by Blink-182 and The Joker by Steve Miller Band, Good God (blasphemy) and Ozzy’s Mr. Crowley is in the song list as well. There are some super natural and death animations in some of the gigs. One of the gigs is very tripped out and disturbing.

    Overall this is a good offering for a Guitar Hero game. There is a lot of replay value with the bundled songs, downloadable content and the user created music. There are definitely some great songs in the list and in all fairness; I think there are some duds as well. The game play is fun, but I have to admit that I’ve been converted to a Rock Band fan already. This review is based on the game only, I have not played with the new Guitar Hero instruments so I cannot comment on their quality.

    Game Play: 17/20
    Graphics: 9/10
    Sound: 8/10
    Interface: 5/5
    Stability: 5/5

    Game Score: 44/50

    Appropriateness 36/50

    -2 for swearing
    -5 God’s name in vain
    -3.5 for sexual references
    -3.5 for lack of clothing

     

  • Hatsune Miku VR (Oculus Rift S)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Hatsune Miku VR
    Developed by: Crypton Future Media
    Published by: Degica
    Available on: HTC Vive, Oculus Quest/Rift, Valve Index
    Release date: March 8, 2018
    Genre: Rhythm
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $24.99 for the standalone game, $54.86 for the complete version
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Degica for sending us a review code!

    I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing several Hatsune Miku titles through Sega. Hatsune Miku VR is the second virtual reality game I’ve played and the first from Crypton Future Media. I enjoyed Hatsune Miku: VR Future Live on PSVR, so comparing them should be interesting.

    For $25, you’ll get access to ten songs with a few different backdrops. The remaining DLC tracks are shown in the game, but if you want to play them you’ll have to buy them for $12.99 per pack. Unlike most Hatsune Miku games I’ve played, there are only a couple of options when it comes to customization. You can change Hatsune Miku to a silver-haired version and the only other option is to change the wand to a pair of leeks.

    The tutorial will show you the basics which involves touching the circles that come out of the speakers and towards you with your wands/leeks. Any true Hatsune Miku fan will choose the leeks over the default girly wands. Though Ievan Polkka is not played during the tutorial, it’s available as one of the ten stages in the base game. The rest of the songs are good as well and I’m happy with the song variety.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Catchy music
    Weak Points: Only ten songs; not much customization compared to other Hatsune Miku titles; experienced multiple stutters despite using an Oculus Rift S and a VR capable laptop
    Moral Warnings: Questionable lyrics; Hatsune Miku wears a really short skirt

    There are two difficulty levels and I found the Normal mode to be quite challenging. I’m almost certain that you have to have more than two arms to fully master some of these songs. Since the songs on Normal mode were challenging enough for me, I didn’t bother trying the Hard difficulty level.

    The visuals are pretty colorful, especially in the sweets/pastry themed stage. Hatsune Miku will sing and dance as you try to move around to touch the notes coming at you from multiple directions at once. At times it seemed like Hatsune MIku would get in the way and I wish there was an option to remove her character so I could just focus on the notes. Maybe the purpose of her being there is to make it feel like she's dancing with you. I found her too distracting though.

    As you tap the flying notes, the game will keep track of your longest streak and notify you for every iteration of ten combos. The fever gauge will increase as you do well and its progress carries over into the next level. I have had the fever gauge nearly depleted and have not failed out of any of the levels. The nearly depleted fever gauge carries over as well. Depending on how many combos you get, you’ll be given a letter grade at the end of your performance. The best I’ve gotten is a SS. Even with that score, I was not a threat to anyone on the online leaderboards.

    Hatsune Miku VR
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay: 14/20
    Graphics: 8/10
    Sound: 9/10
    Stability: 3/5
    Controls: 5/5

    Morality Score - 86%
    Violence: 10/10
    Language: 10/10
    Sexual Content: 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural: 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10/10

    Though my laptop significantly exceeded the System Requirements, I experienced several stutters that did break many of my song combos. I also used the Oculus Rift S which is a current headset.

    Since the songs are sung in Japanese, I have no idea what they’re singing about in-game. Looking at English translations for most of the songs, they're pretty tame. Amagoi Miseinen talks about a relationship where one person is underage to confess their feelings. Ghost Rule is about a ghost lamenting their crime. The song Lucky Orb talks about dancing and taking off everything. Other than some questionable lyrics, Hatsune Miku’s wears a short skirt.

    Overall, this is a fun VR game that’s easy to understand and difficult to master. My biggest gripe other than the stutters is the lack of content for the money. I’d recommend picking the complete version or additional song packs on a Steam sale.

  • Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone (PS4)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone
    Developed by: Sega
    Published by:  Sega
    Release date: January 10, 2017
    Available on: PS4
    Genre: Rhythm
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen 
    Price: $53.99 for all of the songs

    Thank you Sega for sending us a review copy of this game! 

    The virtual popstar Hatsune Miku and her vocaloid (all of the voices are synthesized!) friends are back and upping the ante in this rhythm game.  The same gameplay that Hatsune fans enjoy is there, but with five difficulties and two hundred and twenty-four songs to test your skills on.  Those who love customizing Hatsune Miku and her friends will not be disappointed with the three hundred plus modules/outfits available for purchase with in-game currency earned by successfully completing songs.  

    Like many rhythm games, you’ll have to match the floating notes with their corresponding button presses.  For example, the floating X will require you to press the X on the controller when it’s lined up perfectly to its matching icon.  To help out, the icons have spinning second hands; the button should be pressed when they're in the 12 o'clock position.  The joystick or triggers will be required when their orange icons are displayed.  Just in case that wasn’t enough to keep track of, there are various combinations to master as well.  The combinations are often used in the featured mode that requires perfect execution in order to successfully pull off a costume change mid-song.  Big points and completion rewards are given for mastering this technique.  

    Each song has two status bars that you have to pay attention to.  The life bar on top is added for each Cool, Good, and Safe rating.  When you get a Bad, Miss, or press the wrong button, the life bar gets depleted a bit.  If the life bar is fully drained you’ll fail the song unless you have the “No Fail” option enabled.  The bottom status bar shows the song completion percentage and how close you are to completing or exceeding the minimum passing requirements.  Anything less than 50% does not count as completed.  You will still get ten points/virtual currency for attempting and failing a song.  Several hundred points are awarded for successfully completing a song and you get more points for doing so at harder difficulties. 

    Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Extensive collection of songs and more challenging gameplay 
    Weak Points: Two hundred and twenty-four songs and they did not include my favorite one!
    Moral Warnings: Skimpy outfits including bikinis and speedos can be worn by the singers; Halloween themed outfits

    The currency can be used to purchase outfits, hair styles and various accessories to customize Hatsune Miku, Kagamine Rin, Kagamine Len, Magurine Luka, KAITO, MEIKO, Akita Neru, Kasane Teto, Sekine Meiko, and Yowane Haku.  You can make the characters look like pirates, ninjas, goddesses, school girls/boys, Santa, cats, clowns and plenty more.  There are even Sega tribute outfits like Sonic and Valkyria Chronicles themed ones.  Some of the outfits are swimwear based (bikinis and speedos) and expose more skin than covering it.  Whatever outfit and character is selected will be used in the rhythm game performance.  

    The visuals are great in this game and the character detail and animations are top notch.  I like how you have the option to just watch the music videos to appreciate them without focusing on mashing buttons in time.  There’s also a practice mode if you need to improve your skills a bit.

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 87%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

     

    The songs are all sung in Japanese and the lyrics are shown in Romanji which shows the Japanese sounds in a Western alphabet.  Since I am not fluent in Japanese, I have no idea what the meaning of most of the songs are.  Many are love themed and some of them even talk about cats.  A few of the songs have a darker tone and could be a contributing factor to its Teen rating from the ESRB.  

    While I didn’t do bad, there were some songs that I failed on normal difficulty.  I typically earned a C on my performances, but Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya! with its tempo changes was too much for me the few times I tried it.  Despite my mediocre performances, I still had fun and that's what counts.  There are plenty of songs to choose from and most of them consist of pop music, but there are some rock, dance, reggae, and even polka songs. Despite my favorite song not being in this game, the selection is still great and bound to please any Hatsune Miku fan.  

     

  • Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix (Switch)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix
    Developed by: Sega
    Published by: Sega
    Release date: May 14, 2020
    Available on: PS4, Switch, Vita
    Genre: Rhythm
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for blood, violence, sexual themes
    Price: $39.39
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Sega for sending us this game to review!

    Hatsune Miku and her friends are vocaloids whose singing is generated via vocaloid software. Even though Hatsune Miku is a fictional sixteen year old with turquoise colored hair, she has quite the fan base. She has been featured in over 100,000 songs world-wide. Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix is a collection of over 100 sings since their inception in 2007. Even more songs are available in the multiple DLC packs that have been released since this game’s launch.

    There’s no story in this title. Just multiple ways to play. I preferred the classic arcade mode, which is more challenging than the newly released Mix Mode. The Mix Mode has three difficulties Easy, Normal, and Hard. Arcade Mode has five difficulties Easy, Normal, Hard, Extreme, and Extra Extreme.

    Like previous Hatsune Miku titles, you’ll have to match the floating notes with their corresponding button presses. For example, the floating A will require you to press the A on the controller when it’s lined up perfectly to its matching icon. To help out, the icons have spinning second hands that should have the button pressed with they’re in the 12’O Clock position. There are also left and right trigger icons that are easy to confuse so pay attention to their orientation!

    Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A collection of over 100 songs to play; multiple play styles
    Weak Points: English translations of the lyrics would have been nice, I have no idea what the songs are about; lots of paid DLC available
    Moral Warnings: Piano Forte Scandal seems to be about a jewel heist with Hatsune Miku outrunning the cops, one song is called Sweet Devil and another is titled Sadistic Music Factory

    Depending on your timing you’ll be rated with cool, good, safe, bad, or miss. The game will also notify you if you’re pressing the wrong button. If you get successive cool and good ratings, you’ll start a combo streak which boosts your score. Anything safe or lower will end the combo.

    Mix Mode uses the joy-con motion controls and you have to line up the pink and blue bars and tap the L or R buttons when they align. While this mode is interesting, I still preferred the Arcade Mode.

    No matter how you complete songs, you’ll earn VP points which can be used to customize your Hatsune Miku avatar. Some of the outfits are more conservative than others. If you’re creative, there’s a t-shirt designer in this game.

    Visually Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix looks great on the Switch. Other than the long load times, it runs great too. The videos can be a bit distracting and I missed hitting some of the notes as a result. The character and customization options are plentiful and look good. Unfortunately, some of the outfits show more skin than cover it.

    Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 86%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural – 8.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    There’s a wide variety of singers and some of them sound more realistic than others. I couldn’t understand any of the lyrics. They’re displayed on the bottom in Romanji which I cannot undertand. I recognized a few of the songs, but many of them were new to me. As usual, the tutorial song is a variant of Ievan Polkka.

    Without being able to understand the lyrics, most of the song content went over my head. One of the videos shows Hatsune Miku running away from the cops in an apparent jewel heist. One song is called Sweet Devil and another is titled Sadistic Music Factory. The Sadistic Music Factory video shows various torture devices. It’s weird. Though the ESRB mentions blood, I don't recall seeing any in the game.

    If you enjoy Hatsune Miku songs and previous games, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix is worth looking into. There’s a lot of built in content with a lot more available for purchase. The physical edition is rather pricey, but the digital version is affordable at under $40.

  • Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X (Vita)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X
    Developed by: Crypton Future Media
    Published by: SEGA
    Release date: August 30, 2016
    Available on: PS4, Vita
    Genre: Rhythm
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB rating: Teen for lyrics and mild suggestive themes
    Price: $39.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you SEGA for proving us with a review code for this game and its DLC!

    Hatsune Miku and her friends are vocaloids whose singing is generated via vocaloid software. Even though Hatsune Miku is a fictional sixteen-year-old with turquoise colored hair, she has quite the fan base. She has been featured in over 100,000 songs world-wide.  In Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X you initially play as Hatsune Miku, but can quickly unlock the ability to sing as Kagamine Rin, Kagamine Len, Megurine Luka, KAITO, and MEIKO.  

    The story is simple yet functional.  In Hatsune Miku’s universe there are five prism clouds (Classic, Cool, Cute, Elegant, and Quirky) and they have lost their illumination.  In order to recharge and re-connect the prisms Hatsune Miku and her friends must sing to generate voltage.  Each themed cloud has a total of six songs that must be sung in order to unlock and reconnect the next area.  Out of the six songs, five of them are playable at the beginning with the final song being slightly harder as a finale.  The finale is a mashup of several songs (all sung in Japanese) and is slightly more difficult than the regular songs.

    Like many rhythm games, you’ll have to match the floating notes with their corresponding button presses.  For example, the floating X will require you to press the X on the controller when it’s lined up perfectly to its matching icon.  To help out, the icons have spinning second hands that should have the button pressed with they’re in the 12’O Clock position.  Star icons require you to press one of the joysticks in any direction when aligned with the floating stars.  Colored floating arrows need you to press the corresponding directional arrow along with the colored symbol it’s associated with.  Last but not least are rush icons that need you to mash a particular button for a short period of time.  

    Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun rhythm game with plenty of song variety and customization options; cross save support
    Weak Points: DLC song songs are available for $2.99 each
    Moral Warnings: Some songs have dark/depression themes; blaspheming; magic, goddess, and Halloween references; skimpy outfits and swimwear

    In the beginning there are only two difficulties available: Easy and Normal.  In the easy mode you typically only have to deal with one button type and normal has you working with two.  After illuminating all five of the cloud prisms, the last two difficulties, Hard and Extreme, become unlocked.  Naturally, they require you to master handling more buttons in the songs. 

    The main story will take less than eight hours to complete, but there is still plenty more to do once you illuminate all of the cloud prisms again.  You can unlock a final song by playing songs again to earn crystals in each of the galaxies.  There is also a Free Play mode where you can play the songs without having to worry about reaching the minimum voltage level.  The Technical and Chance zones are still in the songs though.  In order to complete a Technical Zone you have to have Cool or Good ratings on the predetermined set of notes.  Getting a Safe, Bad, or Miss ends the zone.  The Chance Zone isn’t as picky but you do have to finish the zone by getting the last star note.  If completed, the Chance Zone will have your character change outfits mid-song and net you a ton of voltage points. 

    For each completed song you’ll earn prizes and modules to change into and accessorize with.    Before each song you’ll have the opportunity to dress and accessorize your singer.  Each outfit and accessory can enhance the voltage multiplier if matched to the prism’s aura.  For example, the Quirky prism rewards your singer if they have on a silly outfit.  There are a ton of accessories to choose from as well and if you keep a similar theme throughout them all you can get up to a 60% voltage bonus.    

    Unlike Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX on the 3DS, there are not many mini-games in this title.  There is a relationship mini-game where you can give gifts to the singer to get them to like and trust you more.  Sometimes the gifts will be gratefully accepted, and sometimes they’ll be noticeably disappointed.  Each character has their own preferences and tastes.  Sometimes they’ll have a specific craving and if you’re able to satisfy it, you’ll get lots of reward points.  

    Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 77%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    There’s a wide variety of gifts ranging from food to toys and interior design items.  Some of the gifts will have cut scenes associated with them but not all of them do.  Sometimes the cut scenes don’t match the initial reactions.  I gave Hatsune Miku a fishbowl which she didn’t appreciate, but according to the cut scene she enjoyed her new pet.  

    Though the character interactions are happy and family friendly, the songs can be a bit darker in nature if you have time to actually read the lyrics.  Since the songs are sung in Japanese you won’t easily pick up on the themes of love, depression, goddesses, magic, or blaspheming (Oh Jesus!).  You have the option of setting the subtitled lyrics to be in English or spelled out in Romanji to better understand what they’re singing in Japanese.

    The songs are mostly pop and actually got stuck in my head even though I don't know what they’re saying.  My favorite song in the game is Love Song.  The singing is pretty impressive for software, but while the characters are talking in-game you can tell that it’s synthesized.  

    Visually Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai looks great on the Vita.  The character and customization options are plentiful and look good.  Unfortunately, some of the outfits can be revealing including skimpy swimwear on both the male and female characters.

    In the end, Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai is a cute rhythm game that is fun to play if you enjoy JPOP and vocaloid music.  The main campaign is relatively short, but there’s plenty of replay value in collecting modules and gifts for the characters. If you see this title on sale, it’s worth adding to your rhythm game collection.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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