Review: Deemo: The Last Recital (PSV)

Review: Deemo: The Last Recital (PSV)

Formats:

  • PlayStation Vita

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible No
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Title: Deemo: The Last Recital
Format: PSN (934 MB)
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: PM Studios
Developer: Rayark
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: E
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Much like Rayark’s last game, the PS Mobile (rest in peace) title Cytus, Deemo is a port of a phone rhythm game to the Vita.

It’s a solid, if simple, style of rhythm game that makes some unfortunately annoying progression decisions.

There’s a good sense of theme, in design and music, to make the game appealing, but expect to grind a lot.

Gameplay:
Deemo is very easy to wrap your head around if you’ve played a rhythm game in the past couple decades. Notes slide in along a track and must be tapped when they reach the bottom, in time with the music. That’s about it.

Of course, on the phone, there are no physical buttons so Deemo used touch screen controls. These have been preserved for the Vita and in fact the game doesn’t and can’t use the Vita’s buttons at all, even on menus.

This works mostly well for the gameplay, but I would have liked the ability to use the D-pad to scroll through music or navigate other menus.

The one odd thing is that unlike most other rhythm games of its ilk, Deemo doesn’t have lanes for the notes. Rather, notes can slide down anywhere on the screen, and can even vary in width.

Because notes don’t slide straight down, they come in at an angle like Guitar Hero. I did have a problem every once-in-a-while where I would miss a note because I misjudged where it would end up.

That aside, the gameplay is very solid. Note charts are generally pretty well mapped and the game doesn’t throw in too much craziness. There are only two note types: ones that must be tapped separately, and ones that can hit by sliding between them. The fail mechanic is pretty lenient too, as songs cannot be failed out of mid-song and are only graded at the end of the song.

As a rhythm game aficionado though, this one does seem to fall on the easy side. I fell into the game with next to no learning curve and even on the most difficult songs, I was rarely even close to failing at the end. That said, it does offer three difficulty levels per song to ease rhythm game novices into those more difficult tunes.

The worst part of the game is the progression system. There’s a story told through wordless cutscenes that happen occasionally, about the titular Deemo finding a girl and helping her grow a tree with music to go home. Unfortunately, unlocking both these story segments and new songs takes a lot of playing.

Completing songs grows a tree that ties into progression, both of the story and for unlocking new music. Playing a new song is fine, often earning about 0.25 meters to the tree. But once you’ve run out of songs, replaying songs earns less than 0.1 meters.

I’m currently in the twenty to thirty meter range and unlocks are now coming at greater than two or three meter increments, meaning I sometimes have to play thirty repeated songs to earn a new one.

As I have yet to complete the story, I don’t know how many songs make up the base game. I’ve currently unlocked about thirty songs, or found, as a few songs are hidden in menus to unlock. It’s a decent amount for the asking price, but again, you’ll have to replay songs a lot to keep progressing the story.

Because the bonus for playing a new song is so great, I feel like the game is actively encouraging buying the tons of DLC available. Normally I like DLC for rhythm games, and on the surface, most of it is worthwhile.

It just feels a little scummy how the game’s mechanics seem to encourage spending more money, like a typical free-to-play game, which Deemo is not.

One other small note, as I am a sucker and bought some DLC: I really don’t like how the DLC is added either. Each pack of songs is added as its own category.

If I want to play a specific song, I have to pick a category/song pack and if it doesn’t have the song I was looking for, back out to the menu and slide through the category list and try another one, with loading screens going into and out of each category.

One large sortable list, or even the ability to swipe between categories without exiting, would have been appreciated.

Visuals:
The visuals are best described as simple but effective. There’s a cohesive look to the entirety of the game and even if there’s not a lot of flair, it works very well.

The cutscenes, when used, are well animated and look good. Each song has a unique splash screen image showing Deemo or one of the other characters from the story in a manner that reflects the song.

There are no videos or performers in the background while playing, as in games like DJMAX or Rock Band. However, there is an effect that mimics parts of the song in the background of the notes. It’s a relatively minor thing that looks good and isn’t distracting while playing.

Audio:
Rhythm games need to have good music to be appealing and Deemo does well enough in that department. As Deemo the character is shown to be a pianist, the game tends to lean towards piano music.

With a lot of softer piano melodies, this is in pretty stark contrast to most rhythm games that often focus on more exciting rock or dance music. There are a few upbeat songs here and in the DLC, but the focus is still on the piano music.

The music is effective and interesting, which certainly helps. For the most part these seem to be original compositions, but there are a few songs from other Rayark games, though they’re usually adapted to match this game’s style.

The soothing atmosphere of the songs was, to me, both a boon when I wanted something relaxing and a hindrance on the few occasions I tried playing when I was already tired. I even fell asleep once while playing, not because I was bored but because of the calming music.

Online/Multiplayer:
For the Vita version, Rayark actually added a multiplayer mode that, to my knowledge, was not in the phone version. Sadly though, it’s local ad-hoc only so I haven’t been able to test it in full.

It can be played in ‘practice’ mode though, against an AI opponent. There are two modes: a duel and duet. Duel just has both players playing the songs and then the game compares ratings at the end.

Duet seems like it might do something to the songs, as the selection is limited, but I couldn’t hear any difference while I was playing in practice mode. There’s also an online leaderboard, but I have no clue how it works. It seems to be separated by difficulty level but it shows all of my scores as zero.

My best guess is that it would update once I complete the story and have all the songs unlocked. The online leaderboard is also a little hidden and I didn’t even realize it was in the game for quite a while.

Conclusion:
Mechanically, Deemo is a solid rhythm game. The music is good, setting itself apart from the song selection found in most rhythm games, with well designed charts.

Outside of the songs though, there’s nothing too unique to the game and it has a the big problem in the pacing of unlocks/story. For those who don’t want to spend more, having to replay a dozen songs just to get a single new one is infuriating.

I still think I would recommend this to most rhythm game enthusiasts. The early unlocks come fast enough that within an hour or two of playing, there are a couple dozen songs available.

While getting everything and seeing the story takes some grinding, at least with the early base of unlocks there’s enough to be worthwhile. Deemo is a game I feel like I’ll want to revisit on occasion, which is a good quality in a music game.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

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Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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