Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor from Akupura Games combines RPG mechanics with music rhythm game battles. Rhythm game fans won't want to miss it.
A silly story sets the stage
Metronomicon begins with a fully voiced introduction that sets the stage for the adventure. The mythical land of Versa in the land of Koras has recently been plagued by magical attacks and monster raves. The human population has largely receded in fear, leaving only the students of an academy of the dancing arts to stand in the monsters' way.
As a team of four recent graduates, players must band together and explore five dangerous dungeons. Only here, you don't actually explore the dungeons. Each location simply offers a set of ten songs to complete – just as you'd expect from a music game. The final song in an area is an exciting boss battle.
Finishing songs (all of which have online leaderboards), you'll unlock new songs and challenges. Challenges task you with revisiting old songs and completing specific tasks (such as achieving a score or combo target) to win items for your party.
Metronomicon features a soundtrack of over forty songs by indie artists like Shiny Toy Guns, YACHT, Perturbator, J-Punch, and DJ CUTMAN. Even if you haven't heard of the musicians, it's a solid collection of peppy electronic music with which to battle.
After selecting a song, your party of four adventurers will face off against one or more opponents for the duration of the song. Each party member has his or her own note chart, which is how you'll deliver attacks, spells, and buffs.
Directional arrows scroll down the chart, and your task is to hit the right direction on the D-Pad or matching face button when it reaches the bottom of the chart. Sometimes you might have to hit two directions at once, so it's smart to use both the pad and buttons (I use the D-Pad for down and left, and the face buttons for up and right). You can also use Rock Band 4 peripherals for that extra touch of musical authenticity.
That's the basic gameplay, hitting the right buttons while a song plays. But each character can equip up to three different abilities, including basic attacks, attack spells, heals, buffs, and debuffs. These abilities require different levels of inputs to perform. Your first level ability is quick and easy. After finishing the last input for it, if you keep performing inputs, you'll perform the second ability instead of the first, and the third level ability requires the most inputs. Remembering what all three abilities do and deciding which one to initiate takes a little mental stamina, but that's all part of the challenge and fun.
Abilities all have a cooldown period, so you can't just stick to one character's note chart and ignore the rest of the team. The bumper buttons jump left and right between your adventurers. They all constantly have notes coming down, but you're usually not penalized for missing notes on a non-highlighted character. After switching over to someone, you even have a few seconds to start hitting their notes.
The whole setup creates a loop of performing an attack, switching characters, performing another move, and so on – for the duration of the song. Defeating non-boss enemies doesn't end the song; they'll be replaced by another baddie after a few seconds. But it gets your team a short respite during which you can heal or prepare the next attack.
After the song ends, the team receives experience, currency, and possibly one or more equippable items. Leveling up boosts your fighters' stats and unlocks new abilities. Equipment provides useful boosts and buffs. It's basic RPG stuff that adds an extra level of depth to the typical rhythm game formula.
Workshop and modes
As players progress through the five areas and advance the story, they'll also earn workshop credits from certain battles. These can be spent to repair and upgrade the university. Unlockables include multiple team attacks for use during battle, a DJ Room (sound test), a Laboratory for crafting better gear, and more.
The team will also gain access to the arena. There they can select and complete unique challenges to earn gear and credits. Other modes include freeplay, which lets you play any song encountered in story mode, and a super tough endless mode that unlocks after beating the game. Story mode is the main attraction, but the extra modes (and additional difficulties) provide some nice optional replay value for those who want it.
Music games are usually better with friends, and the same applies to Metronomicon. Story mode and freeplay support two-player local co-op, with a second player helping out on the main player's save file. You can switch between solo and co-op any time you start; the game doesn't lock you into a multiplayer save.
Co-op Metronomicon works the same way as normal, but both players get to participate during battles. You'll each actively play whichever note chart you highlight, switching between characters at will. Teaming up makes things a bit less hectic, a great way to share the dance battle experience.
At launch, Metronomicon offers two premium downloadable content packs for $1.99 each:
Chiptune Pack #1:
- Marissa Hapeman - Pretty In Pixels
- Craig Barnes - Do The Double Deux
- DDRKirby(ISQ) - Flow Unlimited
Indie Game Music Pack #1:
- Aethernaut - Neo-SF Strut (Read Only Memories)
- Steve Goldshein - Whispering Willows Theme (Dance Remix) - (Whispering Willows)
- Skyler McGlothlin - Credits (Retro/Grade)
DLC songs are played outside of the main game, so they don't contribute to your characters' progress – a shame. But they're still a pretty good value for players who need more songs for dance battles. Hopefully more cool chiptune and game tracks will follow.
The Xbox One version of Metronomicon features 32 Achievements worth a total of 1,000 Gamerscore. These include the typical progression-based Achievements, as well as some optional ones like applying six buffs to a character at one time, and one-hit killing five enemies in a row.
The hardest Achievements involve beating every song in story mode and the arena on hard difficulty (which adds a lot of extra notes to the note charts). You'll also have to beat a fifty-song playlist without pausing (which takes nearly three hours) and survive thirty songs in endless mode. All of these require some dedication, but should still be doable.
Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor is a clever mixture of RPG and rhythm game mechanics. Seeing as how there's no real exploration and a fairly light story, it doesn't quite provide the full role-playing experience. But you do get multiple unique party members to recruit, equip, and level, and lots of monsters to fight on the dance floor.
A sequel with even more RPG elements and a better art style (the characters can be ugly at times in this one) would be amazing. Until then, Metronomicon stands tall as one of the best and most creative rhythm games of this generation. If you like a musical focus in your games, put on your clubbing clothes and head out to the Metronomicon.
Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor costs $19.99 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam.
- A music game with RPG mechanics is something you don't see every day.
- Fighting monsters to electronic indie songs is quite enjoyable.
- Lots of modes to keep the party going, plus local co-op!
- The art style is ugly at times, especially the characters' faces.
- Exploration and NPC conversations would make this feel more like a full role-playing game.
- As with many music games, the active player can't watch anything but the note charts. So taking advantage of elemental weaknesses is difficult.
Xbox One review copy provided by the publisher.
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