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Music games

Project DIVA F 2nd photo
Project DIVA F 2nd

Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd to feature fully-translated English lyrics


The songs are still in Japanese, though
Jul 03
// Brittany Vincent
It's exciting to see so much love for Hatsune Miku from Sega, especially given how fun the Project DIVA games are. Perhaps as an extension of said love, Sega has announced that Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd will feature f...
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Korg DSN-12 analog synthesizer comes to 3DS this September


3D oscilloscope on the 3DS!
Jun 26
// Dale North
The following might be lost on you if you're not a music or sound person. Japan-based Detune Ltd, the folks behind DS and 3DS musical software titles Korg DS-10 and Korg M01, are back with another new musical tool, the Korg ...
The Rhythm of Fighters photo
The Rhythm of Fighters

The Rhythm of Fighters combines music with brawling for your gaming pleasure


Putting the "beat" back in music
Jun 20
// Brittany Vincent
Do you love fighting games? Do you love music games? What about a combination of the two? No, I'm not talking about Kickbeat. I'm actually talking about The Rhythm of Fighters - SNK Original Sound Collection. Strangely enough...
Project DIVA photo
Quick hands-on preview
As Miku fans likely already know, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd is coming to North America this year, to both PS3 and Vita. It was through your support for the first title that this sequel's release is possible, Sega tell...

Phil Fish is back photo
Phil Fish is back

Fez, Canabalt creators announce new partnership


Polytron and Finji reveal support for musical indie game Panoramical
Jun 12
// Kyle MacGregor
A unique partnership was unveiled today at the Los Angeles-based Horizon conference, an E3 alternative event hosted by Venus Patrol and the LA Museum of Contemporary Art. Panoramical is described as "anthology of intera...

Harmonix announces Dance Central Spotlight, a digital-only Xbox One exclusive

Jun 09 // Dale North
There's a new fitness mode that will give players up to 90 minutes of non-stop dancing to burn calories. A new practice mode can be called forth at any time to learn moves. There's also the ability to do a loop of routines, like a sort of playlist. So far, these are the only confirmed songs for the tracklist: “Wake Me Up” –  Avicii “Talk Dirty” –  Jason Derulo ft. 2 Chainz “Show Me” –  Kid Ink ft. Chris Brown “Counting Stars” –  OneRepublic “Happy” – Pharrell Williams  
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Kinect lives on
Dance Central Spotlight is a new Xbox One Kinect dancing title. The idea is to keep the focus on dancing and music, serving as a sort of follow-up to the hit Xbox 360 title Dance Central. The difference here is that Spotligh...

Fantasia: Music Evolved introduces partner apprentice Scout

Jun 06 // Dale North
A new hands-on (hands-off?) session had us playing a newly revealed area called The Neighborhood. The scene features urban street art, psychedelic colors, and has a bit of a comic book vibe. Harmonix said that it was inspired by artists like The Who, and by songs like Cee Lo Green's "Forget You," among others. The area starts out pretty quiet, but as you move the Muse 3D cursor around to manipulate zones, it starts to come alive, first with radio signals, and later with music that you've unlocked. A play through of "Forget You" had us layering rock guitars and keyboards with Cee Lo's original vocals from the hit song. Later, we chopped up drum loops in a composition spell, and created a keyboard solo by waving hands in another.  After this, a diversion into a subway stop of The Neighborhood had us doing a freestyle sequencing section with singing vegetables. A turnip and beet had their own vocal tracks, while a carrot dropped a beatbox track. By moving between the vegetables, the player can jam out to create their own loops, making their own track. This performance is then added back into The Neighborhood as background music. In this case, the trio was added to a train that came back around to the scene regularly. A few new tracks for Fantasia: Music Evolved were announced during our session. Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" will be a part of this stage, as will The Police's "Message in a Bottle." On the classical side, "The Nutcracker" was pulled from the original Fantasia. I tried my hand at Drake's "Take Care." Things got pretty interesting with alternate music tracks that underscored the entire song with acapella background vocals and beatbox rhythms.
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Hands-on with new Neighborhood level
Harmonix has thought a lot about how they'll welcome players to Fantasia: Music Evolved and they've decided to add a partner apprentice that will serve as a sort of game guide. Her name is Scout, a talented but impatient appr...

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Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call trailer shows off RPG elements


New modes shown
Jun 05
// Dale North
The music of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call is pulled from the biggest RPG series ever, so why shouldn't the game have its own RPG elements? This new trailer for the upcoming 3DS music game shows off some of tho...
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Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call launches Sept. 16


Collector's Edition and pre-order incentives announced
Jun 03
// Dale North
We finally have a release date for 3DS music game Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call: September 16. Packed with 26 years of Final Fantasy music, this release comes in both standard and Collector's editions. The latter wil...

Songs for the dearth: Classic music games to fill the hollow

May 29 // Brittany Vincent
Quest for Fame [embed]275563:54070:0[/embed] Quest for Fame was an Aerosmith-themed PC rocker that came packaged with a light blue guitar pick peripheral. You know, back when the term “peripheral” didn’t simply mean “enormous piece of plastic I’ll later toss in my closet.” Though the game suggested you tap the pick against a hard surface, I usually found that smacking my thigh produced the best results via “rhythm EKG,” the meter for measuring your progress on-screen. This meant you looked like a total moron while playing. It was quick, raw, and fairly dirty, like any BioWare sex scene. But it effectively simulated the feeling of “playing” a real guitar. And to me, that meant something. Unfortunately, through repeated use and abuse, the guitar pick eventually only responded when slammed against the computer desk in front of me. It was, however, a fresh look at a genre I’d never experienced before, and it hardly receives any of the credit it rightfully deserves as one of the first truly interactive guitar games to make you feel like a rock star. Space Channel 5 [embed]275563:54072:0[/embed] Atomic pink-haired Ulala, a particularly scintillating tentacle scene, and some embarrassingly catchy electronic pop joined together like undulating Planeteers to create Space Channel 5. By your powers combined, indeed. With every “chu!” and subsequent “HEY!”, the quirky crew liberated groovin’ presidents and helpless civilians from the clutches of the terrifying Morolians and those who dared side with them. In classic call-and-response fashion, enemies spewed out a string of nonsensical chants alongside “lyrics” that could only be described as lazy, leaving you as Ulala to repeat them back with the beat. Unless you had the memory of a goldfish, you could save the world. And I’m proud to say I -- wait, what? It wasn’t perfect, but I would have given my silver Space Michael onesie to work on Ulala’s Swingin’ Report Show. Admit it, you would have too, unless you don’t know the difference between Pudding and Padding. In that case, get off my stage. Gitaroo Man [embed]275563:54073:0[/embed] U-1 played a magical Gitaroo, or as us normal folk would call it, a guitar. And it was good. Still is. Don’t hate. Gitaroo Man, the classic drag-the-note-via-analog-stick-to-pitch-bend musical adventure had it all, even some particularly horrid English voice acting. From cutesy J-Pop to orchestral songs littered with hardcore guitar riffs, to some Day of the Dead-like tunes, it’s a cavalcade of songs meant to beat you into submission. Though genuinely nightmarish in difficulty, it’s still flyin’ to my heart after all these years. A rare find on the PlayStation 2, it saw subsequent release on the PSP for an affordable less-than-$20 steal. PaRappa the Rapper/Um Jammer Lammy [embed]275563:54074:0[/embed] I need to potty, or I’ll be real naughty. I’ll settle for talking about PaRappa the Rapper -- rappin’ dog, and Um Jammer Lammy -- wailin’ lamb (now immortalized on my right arm.) PaRappa, with all the street cred a talking dog could muster after falling in love with a sunflower and rapping about seafood cake, was pretty darn dope, y’all. Lammy adopted the same premise as PaRappa, but you wailed on a guitar rather than relying on your rapping chops to solve every single one of your problems. Rodney Alan Greenblat lent his magical touch to the games, giving them a “paper-thin” look, as well as some truly bizarre characters that to this day I can’t forget. Tupac may have gone down in history, but lines like “In the rain or in the snow / I got the funky flow / But now, I really gotta go” deserve archival for future generations. PaRappa received a lackluster sequel (minus the bit about the burgers) and Major Minor’s Majestic March ranks as one of the worst games I’ve ever had the misfortune of playing. So stick to PaRappa or Lammy’s first endeavors. And that’s the bottom line, ‘cause Chop Chop Master Onion said so. Vib Ribbon [embed]275563:54077:0[/embed] To some, this is one of the strangest music games ever made. To those same people, The Human Centipede is “scary” and the Fright Night remake induces nightmares. You know the type. With its overabundance of vector graphics and trippy music, it’s definitely an acquired taste. But one that goes down oh so good. Like eating at White Castle, without the crippling heartburn in the morning. As the vector rabbit Vibri, you traverse each level (a thin white line) riddled with obstacles. If you’re a chicken-wuss, you can use any CD to create stages for Vibri. Go ahead, use Limp Bizkit. Vibri trucks on to "Rollin’." You’ll quickly learn that Vib Ribbon also means to scare the bejeezus out of you, especially if you play along to the song “Polaroid.” Lordy, lordy. I know I spent hours with Monster Rancher back in the day trying to get different monsters from my dad’s CD collection...so if you wasted all your time spinning anything from The Pixies to ‘70s Superstar Club Hits, you’ll feel right at home here. Unfortunately, Vib Ribbon never saw a North American release, so you’ll need to get crafty to procure a copy in this day and age. Bust A Groove (Bust A Move) [embed]275563:54076:0[/embed] Following in the vein of PaRappa the Rapper, Bust A Groove boasted a varied mix of tracks ranging from trance to disco and everything in between. You input a string of arrows on the PlayStation’s d-pad followed by one of the four face buttons, all in time with the music, of course. It stars a crazy cast of characters, including a grown woman with an infantilism fetish, your token zombie character, and even capoeira-dancing aliens named (you guessed it) Capoeira. Hey, I never said it won points for originality. Each of the characters represent the mix of dance styles, so no matter who you pick you’re destined for busting some “stone-cold grooves." If you could manage to pull off Perfects for three or more turns, you’d get a Freeze. Dance perfectly, or reach a score higher than recommended for that stage? You’d get Fever Time, which showcased your character’s amazing dance moves in a solo show that almost always turned out dismally, unless you chose to play as gangsta rapper Strike. And he’s so much more street than Fiddy’ll ever be. Unfortunately, I stepped on my copy and cracked the disc. This is why I can’t have nice things.
Music games photo
Rockin' just to keep on rockin'
With a new Amplitude on the horizon and a post-Guitar Hero world having left much to be desired by way of rhythm games, we must look to the past to drink our fill from the fount of the world of music. And even before Guitar H...

Harmonix Kickstarter photo
Harmonix Kickstarter

Amplitude Kickstarter crosses finish line with $844K


Congrats, Harmonix!
May 24
// Kyle MacGregor
It's over. The Kickstarter campaign for Amplitude, a revival of Harmonix Music System's 2003 PlayStation 2 game, has run its course. After achieving its $775,000 funding goal with precious little time to spare, the project co...
Amplitude photo
Amplitude

Get ready 2 rokk: Amplitude's Kickstarter successfully funded


That was a close one, rhythm game fans
May 22
// Brittany Vincent
After a tense will-they-or-won't-they run, Harmonix's Kickstarter for a revival of cult classic music game Amplitude has been funded. At the time of this post, the current amount raised by backers is $777,219, with a funding ...
SingStar photo
SingStar

SingStar resurfacing on PS4 later this year so you can sing your heart out


And believe me, I will
May 21
// Brittany Vincent
There isn't any decent karaoke where I live and I'm not in San Francisco or New York, so I turn to games like SingStar for my singing fix. SingStar is coming to PS4 in a big way later this year, and I couldn't be more ex...
Amplitude photo
Amplitude

Harmonix on why it needs Kickstarter to fund Amplitude


It's that or nothing, basically
May 14
// Jordan Devore
Harmonix is attempting to crowdfund a new Amplitude right now and there's been confusion as to why the studio went this route. There's a lot of confusion in general when it comes to crowdfunding, for that matter. In an attemp...
Record Run photo
Record Run

Harmonix releases free-to-play Record Run for iOS devices


Yes, Android is coming as well
May 08
// Brittany Vincent
Harmonix is hard at work getting its Amplitude Kickstarter off the ground, but there's still time for other projects to come to fruition. Harmonix and SuperVillain Studios have teamed up to release rhythm-runner Record Run f...
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Rez and Lumines creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi is thinking about his next game


Synaesthesia
May 08
// Dale North
Rez and Lumines creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi took a step back in 2012 to relax, and fully left Q Entertainment last year. He has been working on social games in Japan since then, but it sounds like he's gearing up to create some...
Amplitude is back photo
Planned for PS3 and PS4
Surely you remember PS2 beat-matching games Frequency and Amplitude. Classics, right? Harmonix told us that they've been waiting to create a new title in the series, and they're announcing a Kickstarter today to do just that....

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Chiptune artist Shael Riley wants to train your ears with new game


String's Theory is looking for the Greenlight
Apr 29
// Ian Bonds
Shael Riley (of The Double Ice Backfire) and his pals at ThaSauce Games want to bring music game fans something fresh and unique to the genre, in the hopes it will be picked up by Steam Greenlight. Riley tackled the art, sou...

Review: FRACT OSC

Apr 28 // Alasdair Duncan
[embed]273633:53623:0[/embed] FRACT OSC [Mac, PC (reviewed)]Developer: Phosfiend SystemsPublisher: Phosfiend SystemsMSRP: $14.99Released: April 22, 2014 FRACT OSC is split into two sections. The main part involves exploring a beautiful, abstract landscape and solving music-based puzzles you'll find dotted around the environment. The other is a studio room containing a synthesizer and sequencer whose components you'll unlock in the main game; solve more puzzles in the main part and the more tools and settings you'll have to play around with in the music studio. FRACT starts off with limited information -- indeed, the only text you'll see (outside of the menus) is the title of the game floating by -- and you won't be getting any clues as you start to explore.  The first thing that will strike you about FRACT OSC is its minimalistic art style; the environment is made of straight lines and big blocky shapes. There are lots of bright colorful shapes and objects that pulse and generate tones and sounds when you approach, making what appears to be a lifeless landscape feel strangely organic. What really captures the attention is the sheer scale of it all; it seems so vast and immense with dazzling structures, fields of crystals, and shards of light shooting upwards. When you actually complete a section, you'll unlock some background music as well and it just helps fill in the world a bit more. What starts off as an interesting but barren landscape is eventually pulsing with sound and light.  FRACT is split into three areas for each synth you can unlock in your studio: the lead, pad, and bass. To gain access to another tool for the studio, you'll need to unlock a pair of puzzles. For instance, the lead synth section starts with musical cubes in a grid; the player has to move them around whilst standing on a designated platform to complete the puzzle. Once they've done that, there's a sequencer puzzle that will finish off the section. This format repeats itself five times increasing in difficulty each time and although it's a shame there isn't more variation in the puzzles, the reward of more unlocks will keep pushing you forward. What may put many players off is the almost complete lack of a guiding hand or clear sense of what to do first. As always, being dumped on an alien landscape with very little idea of what to do or where to go, FRACT can be overwhelming but once you start making those first steps, you'll find there is a logic and pattern to what you're supposed to be doing. As you come across fast travel booths, you'll get an idea of a three-dimensional map that you can use to plot your progress. Each synth section is color-coded and has its own thematic style too, like the pad synthesizer puzzles all cause a fluorescent green liquid to flow through a dam, filling a lake. It's a great way of making it clear what to expect but there's still plenty of times where you can wander off the beaten path and end up solving puzzles out of order.  The immediate challenge is unlocking the three main synths, but there's an inspired ending chapter that distils all of FRACT's music creation tools into a large platforming puzzle. It's a high point in a game that has plenty of them. Indeed, the title is a series of fantastic musical and visual peaks that keep rising and rising into a crescendo. If you mainline the puzzles and quickly get a good grasp on them, you can finish FRACT OSC in a few hours. However, it's worth taking time to explore, find hidden corners, and really soak up the ambiance. Once you're done, it's off to the music studio.  The music studio is pretty well stocked; you'll find all your unlocked synths and FX units. If you've ever used the KORG DS titles, you'll have a good idea what to expect. Completing the game will give you advanced options for your FX units but if you have no musical experience (there are some in-game tutorials), they can be daunting. It's easy to create some simple loops and if you're a more advanced musician, FRACT will export your creations as mp3s or upload them to your YouTube channel. Despite the main point of the game being the challenge of unlocking the synth modules, you can choose to just unlock the entire studio via the main menu. Whilst you can control FRACT with a controller, the puzzle sections and studio parts do require a bit of finesse that using a keyboard and mouse will give you. Graphics options are fairly limited although the simple shapes and colors of the art style don't really need to have to many graphical bells and whistles to fool around with. FRACT OSC is a game where you need to be willing to go in blind and just explore; this might be something that puts a player off within the first 10 minutes, as there's no tooltips or tutorial to tell them what to do, unlike most modern games. If you allow yourself to be drawn into the strange, geometric landscape and understand the structure of the puzzles and progression, then you'll be rewarded with a great experience. Seeing the world fill up with sound and color is an amazing sight and it's something that should be experienced by all regardless of your level of music skill.
FRACT OSC photo
This abstract but beautiful music puzzle game is worth exploring
Although FRACT OSC is a music game, it doesn't fall into the two distinct genres that we're used to seeing. It's neither a rhythm game like Rock Band, Elite Beat Agents, or Rhythm Heaven and nor is it a title that uses your o...

Beat Hazard photo
Beat Hazard

Design your own ship in Beat Hazard: Shadow Operations DLC


I want to pilot the Bebop
Apr 22
// Brittany Vincent
Out of all the places I could play Beat Hazard, I usually play on my phone. Beat Hazard on Steam, however, is packing brand new DLC. The Shadow Operations pack may just change my mind about which platform I choose to play on....
Theatrhythm Curtain Call photo
Sequel to the best 3DS rhythm game
Square Enix's follow-up to Theathrythm Final Fantasy has finally been confirmed for release in North America. That's right: Theathrythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call is coming our way sometime this year, priced at $39.99. We sa...

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Stop-motion rhythm game inSynch has my toe tappin'


Coming to Windows, Linux and Mac in April
Apr 21
// Dale North
Them Games Studio says that their upcoming game, inSynch, falls somewhere between a rhythm game and a musical instrument. Its gameplay is simple: it has you popping up objects that roll in from the four corners of the screen...
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Musical exploration game FRACT OSC will be at PAX East


New teaser video released
Mar 31
// Conrad Zimmerman
FRACT OSC will be releasing next month and while we don't know exactly when it will be available for purchase just yet, we do know that the game will be playable on the show floor at PAX East, April 11-13, as part of th...
Vocaloid photo
Vocaloid

PS Vita rhythm game IA/VT Colorful sure looks like an acid trip


So many colors!
Mar 29
// Kyle MacGregor
Hatsune Miku may be the queen of digital songstresses, but she's by no means the only act in town. Many are looking to join the party, like IA/VT Colorful, a rhythm game starring vocaloid idol IA. The musical title features 60 different tracks to get players bumping and grinding when the game arrives in Japan on July 31. Marvelous AQL has yet to announce a western release.
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Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd coming west


YISSSSSS!
Mar 28
// Dale North
We forgot to say something the other day. I hate that we did because I'm such a fan! Sega has confirmed that Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd will be coming to our shores (North America and Europe) later this year, for both ...

Making multiplayer music in Fantasia: Music Evolved

Mar 25 // Dale North
[embed]272413:53111:0[/embed] Fantasia: Music Evolved  (Xbox One, Xbox 360) Developer: HarmonixPublisher: Disney InteractiveReleases: 2014 What's great about Fantasia's cooperative mode is that players will collaborate with each other to make their own musical interpretation of a given song. Before trying it for myself, I watched two others play Dvorak's "Symphony No. 9" (heard here at the 32 minute mark) together. Don't write the song choice off as boring classical music, though. I watched and listened on as the orchestral original warped from its natural form to an 8-bit chip tune, and then into a big band arrangement, finally combining all three styles for one crazy arrangement. Chip-style drums started to underscore the orchestra, and then jazz piano worked its way in. I was fascinated with how Harmonix's arrangers brought the three styles together. I liked how the gestures lined up nicely with the musical passages, and how they seem to have players passing these passages to each other. Flicks and swings of the arms visually follow musical cues, making it look like the players are conducting some invisible orchestra. Sometimes their movements will come together to make it look as if they're collaborating on a grand gesture that would bring this orchestra together in a big way. The sweep arc gesture near the finale made it look like the two were sharing a high five. It's easy to see that a lot of thought was put into this mode's choreography. Breaks in the standard play come with Fantasia's composition spells. In these sub-challenges, players will use gestures to trigger on-screen objects to add their own touch to the song. The first one I saw had these players moving their hands to trigger drum sounds. These random hits soon became full-on drum fills, and when they were finished with their creation, these fills were magically blended into the existing score as they continued play. Several others like this are scattered through the play session. For my time with multiplayer, I skipped over classical, picking Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" from the available tunes. The opening forward punch gestures make sense with the rhythmic nature of the song, and the motion felt good; it was almost like I was punching to define the beat. As for the heavily featured diagonal swiping motions, I wasn't executing them with as much flair as my partner. But I appreciated that Fantasia is much less restrictive than Harmonix's previous title, Dance Central. I was told that as long as your timing is good, the quality of your gestures is less important. By the end of it, I was double swiping through the air with at least some flair, and having fun doing it. I even caught myself sort of bobbing to the beat. Too bad I only scored 56 percent. I really like how open Fantasia is to players' musical tastes. Before the cooperative level begins, both players are asked to make choices to customize the song. Each player gets to gesture toward a musical style twice before beginning, and they have even more opportunities for genre morphing throughout.  I'm glad that Fantasia is more of a rhythm game than a dancing game, as this suits my personal tastes more. I've learned that it's less about your moves and more about the music. When you combine this with the ability to freely explore and morph its songs with gestures you have a musical experience that has the power to keep you coming back. And the newly revealed multiplayer mode lets you share that exploration with a friend. 
Fantasia multiplayer photo
First hands-on with multiplayer
Harmonix revealed a multiplayer mode for Fantasia: Music Evolved at GDC last week alongside some new songs and levels. I jumped in front of a Kinect sensor to try out the new mode, and it wasn't long before I was flapping my arms to the beat.  Can't you hear that boom, badoom, boom, boom, badoom, boom, bass?    

Persona 4: DAN photo
Persona 4: DAN

Shake it! Persona 4: Dancing All Night coming 2015


Confirmed for North America
Feb 25
// Dale North
Get warmed up and ready to shake that thang as Atlus has confirmed that Vita title Persona 4: Dancing All Night is coming to North America in 2015. I never thought I'd be talking about a Persona rythm-based dance videogame, b...
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BeatBlasters III, a strange blend of platform and rhythm


Now available on Steam
Feb 24
// Conrad Zimmerman
I was caught a bit off-guard by this, the launch trailer for BeatBlasters III, available now for Windows, Mac and Linux in Steam and DRM-free versions. The title and art direction failed to strike a chord with me. And then a...
Circuits photo
Circuits

Circuits tests your ear for deconstructing musical pieces


Does not test your electrical engineering knowledge, thankfully
Feb 19
// Darren Nakamura
While most music-based games focus on maintaining rhythm or use the sound to generate gameplay elements, Circuits takes a bit of a different approach. Taking on a much slower pace, Circuits tasks players with listening to a ...

Chroma: A musical first-person shooter from Harmonix

Feb 17 // Dale North
Chroma  (PC) Developer: Harmonix, Hidden Path EntertainmentPublisher: HarmonixReleases: 2014 Chroma is a free-to-play musical, arena-based first-person shooter for PC, powered by Unreal Engine and coming to Steam. Let that sink in for a moment. Harmonix says that the concept has been around for two years, but the actual game has only been in development since October. So what we saw earlier this month was early in the pre-alpha state. Hidden Path Entertainment (Counter Strike: Global Offensive) has teamed up with Harmonix in what sounds like a pretty even split on the development of Chroma. Hidden Path holds down the fort with all of the shooter aspects of the game, while Harmonix does the rhythmic and musical side.  Each team has their own side of an arena in Chroma, and each side has its own music. Getting closer to winning causes your side's music to play louder, with the goal being to overtake your opponents in both score and song. At key moments of the song, a musical change up can occur, and the map layout can change along with it. For example, a stylistic change in music could also have sniper towers rising up from the ground to mix up the map. Music is also deeply tied to the shooter mechanics. For most of the weapons of Chroma, you're free to fire at any time. But hitting the right beats or staying on rhythm will bring power and accuracy bonuses, and some actions can only occur on beats. For example, the assault class sub-machine gun needs to be clicked on the beat to reload. The grenade launcher can be fired at will, but it'll only detonate on the downbeat of any given measure. The engineer class is probably the most musical; it features a Rock Band-style HUD that has the player clicking the mouse buttons to line up with the song's beat markers to fire properly. The engineer's gun actually won't fire off beat. Harmonix says that you can think of each teammate as a band member, and their weapons as their instruments. Weapon fire actually sounds like instruments, and ties in with the music nicely. It seems like a lot of thought went into how sound effects could be musical accents.  Chroma has a futuristic, space-y look that, from the maps we saw, seemed to be made up of a lot of angled platforms and other structures. It's what I'd imagine that a battle arena would look like on some futuristic alien planet. The different class types looked to match with their lack of color and angular faces. The game is almost completely monochromatic, save for the brilliant lighting and coloring coming from the weaponry. The whole thing is set to electronic music that seemed heavy on beats and light on melody. [embed]270652:52613:0[/embed] I tried two different maps in this first hands-on session of Chroma. At first, I left my teammates to work on the objective in a point control map while I played with some of the rhythmic features of the map. Jump pads let you quickly bounce from one to the next by tapping the spacebar on the correct beat. There are different bars that require taps on whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes, with an audible prompt to let you know what you should be expecting for the next pad. Do this just right and you'll be able to very quickly navigate across the map. Using these pads, quick traversal is like its own mini-game. Once you get the hang of it, bouncing around like this is quite fun. A timed boost replaces the typical shooter's constant running button in Chroma, so those used to quick movement may feel a big bogged down by the switch. But movement feels pretty slow in general. Mastering the jump pads helps to move faster, but you're not able to defend or fire back while bouncing between pads. The play style is locked to the music, so much so that being on top of the beat seems to matter more than aim accuracy. For example, for the tank class, mastering clicking on the beat lets you get much more than one hit out of their rocket launcher as proper input allows the shot to angle onto another target continually. Getting the beat right also helps with the sniper class; a shot turns into a one-hit kill if it happens on the beat. The pistol also gets a strength boost with on-beat firing.  The combination of shooting and beat matching is a great idea, but having to run down an enemy, aim at it, and shoot at it on a beat is a lot to wrap your head around. I found that trying to line this all up in my head was pretty challenging. I've never been great at aiming, so I liked the idea that having skilled shooter players held back by the rhythmic requirements might level out the field a bit. But it's not clear if it really works out that way. I don't know that these skilled players would look at the situation as favorably, and those bad at keeping a beat or making a shot may feel even worse about the whole thing. The way shooting and music comes together in play starts to make sense after awhile, but it does take a bit of experimentation to get a feel for all of these classes and their respective weapons. There's a lot to learn across the five classes, and with each being so different, the required time to scale this learning curve could hurt Chroma's accessibility. This game will need a really good tutorial. But what if you're not that musical? It's still early, so Harmonix has room to play with the balance, but I feel like those having a hard time keeping the beat will have a hard time enjoying this game. The maps we played were full of visual indicators to give you a feel for the beat, so much so that it seemed like it would be pretty difficult to lose a song's downbeat. But, just like with aiming in a shooter, not everyone has a good sense of rhythm.  Even with my good music sense, I was having a hard time with this early build of Chroma. Other than the timed jumping and maybe the on-beat reloading, none of the musical elements seemed to click for me. The experience was rough overall, from the movement to the beat-timed firing. Even with a full hands-on session I felt like we were only seeing the beginning of a neat idea that hadn't come together yet. With five different classes and a variety of load outs, there's plenty of room for players to get in and find a combination that fits their preferred play style. But who is Chroma for? Gamers that like rhythmical challenges could find the movement and aiming to be too much to take on at once. And shooter fans are going to have to approach this with a pretty open mind to be fine with beat-timed requirements for their shots and reloads.  As for the free-to-play aspect, details are light on monetization, but Harmonix does stress that Chroma will not be a pay-to-win type situation. I love that Harmonix was willing to take on such an ambitious combination, but they're really going to have to focus and fine tune the experience to make it as accessible and balanced as possible. If they figure it out, Chroma could be a truly unique experience. Interested? Sign up for the closed alpha here.
Chroma photo
And it's free-to-play
It makes sense that when word gets out that Harmonix is working on a new game, everyone is going to want to see it. This was exactly the case at an invite-only showing earlier this month, taking place during D.I.C.E. Summit 2...


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