Dance Dance Renaissance.
Music rhythm games have fallen very much out of vogue. Pounding 50p coins into DDR arcade machines and spending house parties passing around a plastic guitar to “Through The Fire And Flames” feel like distant memories.
But of course, there’ll always be demand for even disfavoured genres. Enter MUSYNX, a 90+ track music rhythm game now available on consoles after a stint on mobile platforms. Think DDR, but instead of flailing your legs around you’ll be smashing away at your Switch’s buttons or touchscreen.
For music game nuts, MUSYNX has a hell of a lot of content. Over 90 tracks is impressive in itself, but developers PM Studios have committed to free lifetime DLC. It’s a lofty promise and only time will tell how much is delivered, but it’s difficult to feel short-changed with what’s available at day one.
As for the songs themselves, it’s an eclectic mixture of Asian pop, classical, dubstep, chiptune, metal, trap and classic EDM straight out of DDR. For much of it the cheese level is off-the-charts – think Stilton, or a wheel of Camembert left on the windowsill all day and you’ll be in the right ballpark. But I can’t say I’d expect any less from the genre.
There’s little here to innovate on the tried-and-tested rhythm formula. But a valuable inclusion is its reactive music: miss a note and it’ll actually fail to play, like in Guitar Hero and Rock Band. This auditory feedback makes your performances feel more significant and immersive.
The level of control you’re given over the difficulty is another strength. Not only is there an Easy and Hard mode; the ability to choose between a four-button and six-button note board radically changes how MUSYNX plays. A speed gauge lets you fine-tune this further, offering numerous combinations of how many note lanes, the number of notes within those lanes and the speed at which they approach.
How you’re scored is something of a mixed bag, however. Some of the more difficult songs and settings throw a frankly ridiculous amount of notes at you, though this is offset by an overly generous rating system. Likewise, the note detection window is quite large and you’re not penalised for hammering irrelevant notes, so button-mashing is an entirely viable strategy.
The result is an odd case of too many notes so you make a frustrating amount of misses, try button mashing and then perhaps end up with a ‘B’ or ‘C’ anyway. I can’t help but feel that less notes with more stringent scoring would have been a more compelling balance to strike.
Controls also hold back the experience a little. You’ll use some combination of the D-pad and face buttons, and whereas you can re-map these there’s no wholly natural-feeling configuration. You can play touchscreen which does away with button confusion, but is unwieldy in its own right, particularly in 6K mode. The interface also seemingly cannot be fully touch-controlled, which is an oversight.
Finally, there’s MUSYNX’s oddball presentation. Levels are attractively designed, giving you plenty of visual feedback without obscuring the action. But the menus are an incongruous mixture of pixel art, arcadey UI and manga illustrations. The latter are particularly bizarre, having been sourced from completely different illustrators. It looks as if someone’s browsed through DeviantArt with the keyword ‘anime’ and downloaded whatever they liked the look of.
MUSYNX is a quirky music game with oodles of content. It could have benefited from more thought put into the controls and scoring, and the corny presentation and soundtrack won’t appeal to everyone, but diehard rhythm fans will lap this up.
James loves a deep action-adventure game, RPG or Metroidvania. He can often be found in The Indie Game Website’s review section casting his critical eye over the latest indie games.