Groovin’ on the iPhone.
I’m a fan of rhythm action games, be they the stalwarts Rock Band and Guitar Hero or the more obscure Frequency and the classic Gitaroo Man, I’m not the best at them by any means but I do enjoy them apart that is from those released on the iPhone. I’ve just never been able to get used to the small screen and the input required … until now.
I stumbled across ‘Groove Coaster’ completely by chance on the app store and with an icon bearing a set of 8-bit styled headphones surrounding a space invader my interest was piqued. Published by Taito, the game itself has sprung from the minds of the ‘Infinity Gene Project’, the same team behind the excellent ‘Space Invaders: Infinity Gene’, and it shows as soon as you load up the game.
The menus are the same stripped down basic black with white text, giving it a very retro feel. But, be honest, do you really need an all singing all dancing menu? No, I didn’t think so. Like me, you’re just here to get into the good stuff that is the game itself. When you start you’re greeted by a single solitary track, that’s it… To get more, you need get the necessary groove rating to unlock the next track on the twisting line. In total, there are 16 to eventually choose from, all having 3 modes to play – easy, normal and hard. As you’d expect, if you change the difficulty you get more notes to play, or rather targets to hit that trigger sound portions within the song that you are “playing”.
Graphically, it’s a very bare bones affair. You have an avatar that travels along a single thin white line. That’s it, nothing fancy there at all. But you don’t need it.
With backgrounds of swirling patterns and shifting grids, it works perfectly. The targets are just plain circles on the line. But hit them and they shift to circular patterns, small bursts of fireworks and even butterflies. Couple this with the line that your avatar travels on shifting all over the screen and it makes for a retro-tinged feast for the eyes. Proof positive that you don’t need glossy detailed graphics if you get the feel right.
And this brings us to the audio… Well it wouldn’t be much of a rhythm action game without good audio would it?
Don’t expect any chart/mainstream tracks here, aside from a Eurythmics track that pops up. You’ll find a selection from various Taito games, such as Arkanoid, Space Invaders Extreme and the aforementioned Space Invaders Infinity Gene, along with a selection of Japanese pop music that you’ll find yourself humming without realising. It’s a great selection of tracks but, and this is my only criticism of the game, you’ll blitz through all 16 on easy in a heartbeat. There are only two extra tracks to download from the store and, compared to the price of the game itself, they’re rather expensive at 69p each. With that gripe aside, back to the music. The quality of the audio presented is wonderful, especially when enjoyed through headphones (in fact I enjoyed it so much I actually bought the soundtrack). To be honest hit the iTunes store and check out the previews, it’s much better than anything I could write here.
Now we come to the gameplay itself. The simple premise of target hitting is an age old classic, but what makes this more interesting is the way they present it.
That simple line that you follow dives in and out of the screen, lending a sense of depth to the visuals on offer. Coupled with the backgrounds, it certainly has you keeping your wits about you, working out where you’re going to be travelling to on the screen next. As you progress through both the tracks and the difficulty levels, the game adds tweaks to the targets you hit. The first and most common is the “hold”, your basic hit the first target and hold your finger down until the second one and release. Two more variants are the “Beat”, where you have to tap the screen for the length of the section, and the “Scratch”, where you have to make a swiping motion left and right on the screen.
Then you get targets that require you to flick either left or right and ones that descend onto the line from other parts of the screen. All of this may sound easy, but believe me when that line’s shifting around all over the place it’ll take some concentration to keep an eye on where you need to be (pro tip here – don’t get too hung up on tapping one portion of the screen. With the way that line moves you’ll find yourself tapping over the area the targets are coming from and losing your timing). That’s it, but they don’t need anymore than that. Combined with the visual styling it works beautifully. As you hit more and more correct targets, you’ll fill up the groove meter and your score will start multiplying at a suitably rapid rate. Once you’ve reached the target score for the track you’re playing, you get to unlock the next track, and on you go until the last song.
As well as songs to unlock there are upgrades to your avatar and new backgrounds to use too. The avatars all have varying effects, from being a little bit more generous when it comes to the timing of hitting targets, to those that increase the amount of groove you can achieve in a stage. All the avatars have upgrades themselves that increase the effectiveness of their power too. The backgrounds are purely for visual enjoyment, there are no special powers associated with them at all. But there’s a good selection to unlock and they all look stunning. Add this to game center integration and a hefty selection of achievements to unlock and the draw of leaderboards for both cumulative score and scores for individual levels, and you’ll find yourself having “just one more go” on several occasions.
Go on … give your eyes and ears a treat and download this one, you won’t regret it.
Groove Caoster is available on the App Store for both iPhone and iPad at £1.99