That Sweet Beat is a Treat

Zyngor | Sunday, August 17, 2014
While checking comments, Welshtroll noted on my bit about Really Big Sky (space shoot-em-up), of which it reminded him a bit of Beat Hazard. Being a rhythm space shooter, it made me think about rhythm-based games in general.

Fortunately, I never really had the same problem as Chris Penn's Footloose character - rhythm has generally been fairly easy for me to attain. This is not to say my ability to dance (or lack thereof) works the same way. Still, identifying a beat has always been pretty fun, and has helped me during my stint with band in elementary, middle, and high school (I was a trumpeteer - we had one louder).

I will note that I've only seriously played two rhythm games, both essentially the same pure rhythm games - Stepmania and Flash Flash Revolution (FFR). If you have ever played Dance Dance Revolution, these two games are cut from the same cloth. They all utilize directional-based "moves" that are associated with the rhythm from the background music. It's one of those games that are easy to learn, hard to master. Oh, and did I mention that the two games are free?

So what is it about these games that I enjoy so much? There's a combination of things going on that when paired together, make a pretty fun gaming experience. First off, there's music constantly going on in the background. Because you can pick from a list of songs on FFR and basically try to find any song on the web for Stepmania, you are basically setting yourself up a playlist. Next, the actual gameplay tests your ability to quickly scan the incoming notes, and react with the appropriate keystrokes (yes, I do play these via keyboard, though I believe you can set a dance pad up for Stepmania). This is an ultimate evaluation of your hand-eye coordination. With practice, it eventually becomes much easier to recognize certain patterns of notes, and react accordingly.

Just one of many pages of selectable songs in FFR
While Stepmania is a single-player offline download, Flash Flash Revolution is a browser-based flash FFR sets you up with an ranking system that lets you compare your account with other users on the site. As a non-competitive gamer, I could care less if someone beats my scores, so fortunately it really doesn't matter what your rank is when it comes to accessing the roughly 2,000 songs on their database. As long as you can access the web and got Adobe Flash, you're good to go.
game. As such,

Stepmania is perfect for those times when you are unable to connect to the web (whether that be by choice or not) and still feel like messing around with some rhythm-based action. It will take a little more effort to start playing, as you will need to build up your own list of songs by downloading them off the web. Fortunately, there are many song packs out there that make it easy to start building up a library. You'll soon have a bustling selection (if you can think of a song, someone probably made a stepfile out of it). If your hard drive isn't all that big, just keep an eye on your folder to make sure you aren't using up too much available space. As each download includes multiple elements (song, step file, often a graphic, etc), you may want to make yourself a limit of songs at one time if space is a consideration.

I have tried my hand at some other rhythm games. For a brief time, I did have my swing at Rockband, which gave me a taste of group rhythm gaming. Whether it was guitar (rhythm hand-eye coordination), drums (straight up beat), or vocals (melody-based pitch contest), any part was generally enjoyable alongside a good group of friends. I believe I have also tried out Audiosurf, which plays on action-based rhythm. This game puts you in control of a ship, and tasks you with navigating a virtual "staff" of notes, creating a path to the rhythm of the song in the background.

Hybrid rhythm-based games always seem to be a pretty unique title, and are enjoyable for me to at least watch. Some of these that I have seem people play over on Twitch (which I won't go on about the new rules about music in VODs thing) include Sequence and Crypt of the NecroDancer. Both play as rhythm RPG games, which appeals to me as a pretty neat hybrid. Sequence is basically a cross between a Stepmania game and any traditional RPG. Enemy encounters consist of an arrow-based Stepmania-esque battle, which you control three screens - one is the enemy attack, which you must match the moves or loose health. The second controls your mana, refilling it if you hit the arrows accordingly. Finally, the third one is your spell window, casting offensive or defensive spells to either harm the enemy or heal/shield yourself. It gets pretty insane early on if you decide to pick higher difficulty battles.


You know you're on a roll in Necrodancer when the
floor starts to light up
Meanwhile, Crypt of the NecroDancer is a straight-up rhythm-based dungeon crawler. Sounds neat? Plays even cooler. With a great soundtrack by indie game electronic music legend Danny Baranowsky, you navigate the depths of a labyrinth, slaying all the evils within, and upgrading your equipment with the spoils. Oh, and you must do all of this while moving your character to the beat of the music. If you maintain a "groove chain," you'll rack up plenty of gold to spend at the shopkeepers (who happen to be opera singers?). This is probably one of the coolest and most unique implementations of hybrid rhythm gaming.

Whatever your tastes may be, most people generally enjoy music. This gives rhythm-based gaming a pretty wide audience. Ever been to an arcade and seen one of those DDR machines? They always seem to be right in the front, with a crowd of people standing around and watching someone stepping up a storm. It's an intoxicating blend of music, rhythm, and perspiration (not to mention that food court pizza). Whether you have the aptitude or not to mess around with rhythm gaming, it's an awesome genre to at least participate both visually and aurally.

Do you enjoy rhythm-based gaming? What do you feel it brings to the gaming community? Feel free to share in the comments below!


  1. Great post.
    here was a time that every new album I bought *HAD* to be played on Audiosurf such a fun way to enjoy your music.

    I have played quite a bit of Dejobaan Game's "123 drop that beat" which when you unlock the ability to use your own music generates the levels to the music and some of them can be quite nasty.

    I have been keeping an eye on Melody's Escape on Steam, as it looks to be my cup of tea and plays with your own library.

  2. The 24 hours sale over at humble bundle is currently for Rhythm games, which is rather nice )

    1. Ah, nice! Forgot I've seen a couple of these streamed - ESJ and Kickbeat.