I’m a gamer in heart and soul. As far as I can remember I’ve always been interested in videogames, videogame culture and the industry as a whole. For a year know I’ve been working for one of the biggest gaming hardware manufacturers in the world. As you can imagine, my friends and family usually have to listen to my stories about videogames for hours on end. It’s also not uncommon for me and my girlfriend to crash on the couch and enjoy a good videogame together. She too can really enjoy watching me play games like Uncharted 4 or Rise of the Tomb Raider. Never before did she ask to be handed the controller herself though. However, after watching some minutes of The Metronomicon I’ve lost my girl to this genius game. That kind of sucks, because I want to play too. Like, really really bad.
Another one bites the dust.
Are you familiar with Guitar Hero? That’s right, I’m talking about that game franchise that enabled you to mimic a rock star by jamming along your favorite tunes on a plastic guitar controller. The experience was awkwardly satisfying. Too bad a yearly release cycle and a lack of innovation made sure the coffin was shut tight before being buried and forgotten. With The Metronomicon, indie studio Puuba (based in Los Angeles) managed to reinvigorate the genre by adding elements normally only found in the RPG genre. The combination results in an entirely new concept.
The way the game is played is probably best described with help from the screenshot below. On the left side of the screen you can see your four-character party. Directly above each party member are four individual music tracks. A sequence of arrows comes down the tracks which the player needs to match at the right time. If enough indicated inputs are hit, the highlighted party member will execute an attack. Directly after this a short cooldown period commences to prevent the player from spamming attacks. When this happens, you can easily switch to another party member with the push of a button. You can start the new sequence of inputs when desired but watch out, the game is not played in turn by turn fashion. Your enemy (right of the screen) will continue attacking.
Each party member can have up to three different attacks or actions equipped. In order to execute your second attack, the player must first perform all of the moves of the first “stage” followed by all the moves of the second. Meaning, if you want to execute your third attack you will have to execute the moves from all stages before too. Breaking your chain by switching character right after completing the first or the second stage will make sure the party member will execute the corresponding attack or action. This you keep doing until the enemies HP is drained.
The winner takes it all.
It all might sound a bit complex but the game is really easy to pick up. Especially when you have a gamepad. The game is best played with an Xbox controller (matching with the colors of the arrows) and the game tells you this too right after booting it up. If you really prefer a keyboard though, that’s possible too. You can even map the buttons to your liking. If you want to get really funky, even dance mats and guitar controllers are supported. But let’s not forget that The Metronomicon is an RPG game too. There’s an awful lot more going and that’s why the game is so interesting. For example, you can level up your party (more HP and attack points), gather and equip new items and change your party or attacks. Playing a track multiple times will make sure you become stronger and more known with the song’s moves. Eventually you’ll be able to reach stronger enemies and bigger bosses that reward you with better gear or set higher scores. If the tracks are becoming too easy you can even crank up the difficulty.
There’s little to complain about The Metronomicon. The game feels very polished and is feature packed. This might be an indie title alright, but there’s no way of telling. Puuba did not compromise in any aspect. For example; the game features an elaborate story mode (with some good humor!) strengthened by a decent cast of voice actors. At this year’s GamesCom presentation of The Metronomicon, the developers told me they approached many of their favorite bands to create songs for the game. Much to their surprise many of them agreed. The soundtrack and the graphics is where the game really shines. The music is addictive and really funky, varying from fast paced pop songs to slow house. Personally I could not recognize a single artist, but after some googling I found out there are some big names in there (like Shiny Toy Guns).
Graphically the game looks stunning. The animations of the characters on screen sync perfectly to the beat of the song and the comic style really suits the gameplay and atmosphere. The work that Puuba has put in this game is phenomenal. There’re around fifty songs in the base game (without DLC). Each song supports three difficulties. In addition, each song also has to support the four individual character lanes. In the end that means there are around 600 unique move sequences the developers had to create and synchronize to the beat. For a small group of developers, that’s really impressive.
In closing. The Metronomicon is a game that really managed to surprise me. Its gameplay is addictive, its music is funky and its graphics are awesome. It has story, it has voice acting and it’s polished to extend. Above my expectations of an indie game. The unique RPG twist that Puuba managed to incorporate into the (needed to be reinvigorated) rhythm game genre, is a stroke of genius. If even my girlfriend (who is not keen on playing videogames herself) want to start playing, I think it’s safe to say you have a very accessible and fun game at hand. Chapeau.