There’s a hell of a lot of music-based games coming out recently:
Crypt of The Necrodancer, Thumper, Masquerada, and Rez Infinite, just to name a few of the thousand. Soon we’ll see a resurgence in the mainstream, like Guitar Hero mixed with Tetris. I was going to say Final Fantasy but that’s already the subject on the table: The Metronomicon, or as I like to call it, Guitar Hero III: Lightning Returns.
This little project comes to us from Puuba, a developer with a mystery behind them, with their only known goal in life being mixing as many genres together as possible with a comedy zest behind them. There’s been 2 attempts before, with the bloated game (and title) The Weaponographist and the varied but inaccurate Concursion being the aforementioned culprits. However, third time’s the charm here, as The Metronomicon is the best thing to come from them yet.
You are a band of four ragamuffins, a culturally diverse but equally unfunny squad of knights and wizards who decide to protect the school they just graduated from, err.. discos that raise the dead? Whatever really, it doesn’t matter, it’s all fat that gets in the way of the real meat: The gameplay, best described as Rock Band but you’re playing all 4 instruments.
Your squad of 4 are all wizards and warriors of varying degrees. In order to get them to attack, you’ll need to put your soldiers in tune to the beat in order to carry out attacks, with more powerful attacks requiring a longer streak. Beyond that is a small elemental flow chart of critical hits, 50 tracks to groove to, and a weirdly compelling mechanic structure.
It’s incredibly ambitious for Puuba to mix these two genres together, and even more ambitious of them to attach as many RPG mechanics as possible without weighing down the experience. However, it has attachments that seem pointless. The whole elemental flow chart isn’t exactly necessary since most of the time, you’ll be staring at the notes instead of what the enemies weaknesses will be. Nevertheless, being a straight-up brute usually gets the job done.
I admire the attempt at complexity, but it’s mostly for nothing. The game offers a lot of characters, all of which offer unique and different roles such as support or swordsman, and it is set in stone for the most parts along with the rules it respects. But the fact that I had only really died once during my entire playthrough despite not knowing about the critical hit chances until I was 90% through proves that it doesn’t matter how you play.
It plays a part in the side-quests, however, where you have to get a set DPS amount or heal as much as possible, and the cracks are covered up here. When you do optimize your team to get the best damage and/or heal count possible, it makes fights a tad easier. It’s barely noticeable in gameplay since again, the only thing you’ll be focusing on is the highway of notes, but it’s nice to know that Puuba hasn’t completely wasted their time creating such a varied experience.
The game feels like some sort of spiritual successor to Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, with the negligible storyline and visual design putting a lot of focus into the background set pieces. The soundtrack, however? Not so much. You’ve got a veritable smorgasbord of genres here, from the pop-rock flavour of Evan Gamble and Shiny Toy Guns to more EDM-infused beats from YACHT and Efe Tuzan.
In retrospect, a lot of the tracks did stand out, it doesn’t have the Legends of Rock issue of difficulty spikes, but it doesn’t have the World Tour issue of mostly filler either, and that’s great. The amount of genres on display is actually impressive, with almost everything in the past 30 years of music getting a taste-test. You’ve got house music from J-Punch and Zenbi mixed with 80s Rock-infused pop from Hugh Holton and Crushcraze. It’s amazing, to say the least.
My only hope is more music is added in the future, and for it to keep the same levels of variation that is featured in the base game. Get licensing rights for all sorts of artists! ABBA, Kyuss, Cyndi Lauper, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Angelo Badalamenti, Milli Vanilli, the possibilities are endless! Hopefully the game stands head and shoulders above the fodder, since it’s all brilliantly executed.
I mentioned briefly about how the story doesn’t matter, and it really doesn’t. It’s merely fluff that gets in the way of the next tune to play and you can mostly just ignore it. The plot and art design could’ve been ripping off Gears of War and I would’ve cared just as much. But the path they took with it hurts the general experience, in a dilemma I like to call the “Sunset Overdrive Enigma”.
For those who didn’t play it, Sunset Overdrive was a 2014 Xbox exclusive featuring an incredibly annoying Yuri Lowenthal, who spent the time making dumbass Fourth Wall jokes to the camera every eight seconds. The game itself was an brilliant experience, filled with punchy, raunchy and tense gameplay, but the story and characters got in the way with stereotypes, references, and memes that chipped away at the overall quality.
Metronomicon has the enigma running through it, characters guffaw and make inherently idiotic remarks that come off as childish instead of funny. Even in gameplay, you’ll have to put up with a voice drowning out the music every once in a while, the most unbearable of which being Violet. Violet was an issue due to her being the most varied and powerful squad member by far, but her obsession with screaming “KERSPLOSION!” almost every time she did an attack made me want to wrap my lips around a glock.
Both Metronomicon and Sunset suffer from a case of this tryhard dilemma, but Metronomicon thankfully destroys the enigma, and come out on top. While Sunset was a fun sandbox title, it can easily just be chalked up as “Another Sandbox Game”. Metronomicon survives due to the gimmicks, bells and whistles, and the brilliant soundtrack that’s been crafted for enjoyment by Puuba.
In the end, I’ll probably keep playing this game, and I hope everyone else does too. The game’s gimmick wasn’t overdone or hazy, the music is brilliant and I now have new tracks to put on my playlists. My only hope is that they keep the game pumped with new tracks every once in a while, like the thousands of tracks that are on Rock Band. If Metronomicon can provide more tunes, with the same level of variety that they’ve shown here, then it is easily the best music-based experience money can buy.
Playing this game was a magnificent treat, both for the hands and ears. Puuba has tried to mix and match all these different genres for a while now, and they’ve finally hit every single note perfectly. The music was diverse, the gameplay was engaging and free-flowing, and it’s one of the best games of the year. Just get it right now, goddamn it.
This review of The Metronomicon is based on the Xbox One version of the game.
An amazing audible experience that manages to keep its stride, to become a Game of The Year™ Contender, and the best rhythm-action game to come out in years.
Owner of the largest collection of indie games in the Western Hemisphere, and TimeSplitters’ biggest fanboy.