Review: The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor (PS4)

Review: The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC, Mac

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Recommended (1)
  • Move None
  • Rock Band 4 Guitar Optional
Title: The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor
Format: PSN (1.11 GB)
Release Date: August 29, 2017
Publisher: Akupara Games
Developer: Puuba
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
PEGI: 7
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

One of my biggest surprises at E3 this year was how much I enjoyed Metronomicon: Slay The Dance Floor. While it would seem obvious that a combination of two of my favorite genres, RPG and rhythm, would be a shoe-in, I had some trepidation before I tried it. After just a song though, I was hooked and I’ve been anticipating the game since then. Fortunately, the full release does not disappoint.

Gameplay:
So how does one combine an RPG and rhythm game? A few games have tried: Patapon, Crypt of the Necrodancer, and Before the Echo/Sequence to name a few. While I have enjoyed these games, this one manages to combine the genres in a way that’s interesting on its own. And it does so without having to simplify too much out of either genre which is how some of those games got by.

Starting off with the RPG aspects, to me they almost feel like the old “active time battle” (ATB) systems used in games such as Final Fantasy VII. Not strictly turn based, the ATB system had enemies attacking at set intervals and allies regaining their moves over time. However they still had menu based combat and this is where Metronomicon does a “ctrl-f replace” and pops in the rhythm game elements.

Each of the four party members has a note track above them. To get them to attack you must pass a short skill check by successfully playing a portion of the track. Each character can have up to three skills set at a time and you can select between the different skills by playing longer on that track.

So you could, for example, have a character set a water magic skill in the first slot and a fire in the second. Playing through only one section would pick the water skill and playing through two sections back-to-back gives the fire. Spells in the second and third slot also get a power boost to compensate for taking longer and being harder to ‘select.’

On the RPG side of things, the game is pretty typical outside of combat. Characters come in a recognizable set of classes with pretty familiar types of skills: healers with cures, tank who can pull enemy aggro, etc.

The nine characters in the game have different enough archetypes that it’s possible to build a few different kinds of teams and focus on various ways to be successful in combat whether that’s stunlocking foes or exploiting elemental weaknesses or just grinding out for damage.

On the rhythm game side, I was reminded a lot of Amplitude. You’re balancing four different note tracks at the same time, swapping between them as needed. In a nice move though, Metronomicon does not penalize players for taking a break between tracks.

After swapping, the new track doesn’t ‘activate’ until a note is hit, giving you time to assess the enemy’s weakness or what skill to use next. Of course, doing well and scoring well means cutting down this time as much as possible but the inclusion of some breathing room is appreciated to ease players into the experience.

Rather than making it feel like the RPG and the rhythm are disparate parts, the game mixes them in some ways. One that I liked was the way it ties buffs and debuffs into the rhythm portion of the game.

A focus buff, for example, makes it so you don’t need to hit as many notes to cast a spell while a blind debuff makes notes hidden until further down the screen. I really enjoy this as a way to make classic RPG status effects feel more impactful as a player.

Songs in the game serve as different stages or encounters. Most normal songs have you fighting a series of enemies and if you play well enough a mini-boss shows up. It’s not required to beat this mini-boss but the game does track it and some side quests are tied to this. Play enough normal stages and an area boss will appear with their own song. Beating them will unlock a new area in the story.

Another thing the game does well is side quests and optional content. Side quests take the normal gameflow and add an extra requirement: get X critical hits, cast X spells, etc. There’s even a whole Arena mode full of these optional encounters with unique loot for beating them. I like how this adds optional content into the game in a way that feels meaningful and challenging as opposed to something like a fetch quest in a traditional RPG.

Of course if beating the story, unlocking all the loot, and some online daily quests aren’t enough, the game also has an Endless mode that unlocks at the end or via cheat code – yes good old cheat codes are here. Plus there’s a Freeplay mode if you want to avoid that stuff altogether. Rest assured, there are lots of ways to enjoy Metronomicon.

And enjoy it I did. The music plays a big part in that but the mechanics of the game are all well implemented and mesh together in a way that makes sense. The story is pretty simple and silly, intentionally so, but does its job as an impetus to complete the main mode. From there, I’ve been savoring the added challenge of the Arena mode and trying my hand at Endless mode.

A few other random praises: you can play the game with a Rock Band guitar controller, which has actually been my preferred method. I greatly appreciate the calibration system as it has separate controls for display and audio and includes a tap-along method to help set each system.

Each song has three difficulties for the note chart and can be set in every mode, good for those who are interested in the game but aren’t proficient in rhythm games yet.

There’s also a very handy “YouTube” mode that adds an icon to the song selection to tell you which songs will not pass YouTube’s contentID system. Not only that, but the menu also mutes the preview of those songs so you won’t get dinged by accident when scrolling through them when you’re streaming. This is a feature every rhythm game needs!

Visuals:
The game has a nice look overall. At first it seemed pretty simple since I spent most of my time focusing on the notes. As I played I noticed that the characters and enemies dance along to the music but watching some videos I recorded, I later realized that there were a lot of more subtle elements that react to both the song and the player’s actions.

That the action (meaning the notes) is easy enough to focus on is the key takeaway here but the game does have some extra flair to make it feel cohesive and interesting. While playing a song, there’s a ton of information on the screen and it can take a while to learn where to look for each thing. That said, once you’ve played and learned, everything is very well laid out.

The bar for player health is large and easy to see, the enemy health bar is colored according to their elemental type making it easy to tell at a glance, and there’s even a meter to show if you’re playing on-pace to beat the goal before the end of the song. It’s a very solid UI design overall.

Audio:
Rhythm games can live or die by their soundtrack and Metronomicon does not disappoint. With fifty songs in the base game it certainly packs a good amount of content in for the price. But it’s also a great selection of songs, mostly focusing on dance music with a strong beat but with some degree of variation in genre.

I don’t often seek out new music, I still listen to a lot of the music I listened to in high school, so I was only familiar with a few artists in the game like Shinji Hosoe and Takahito Eguchi, who both worked on songs in other rhythm games I’ve played. After playing however, I think I’m going to have a few new albums in my collection.

I was also impressed that the story scenes were all fully voiced. There’s not a ton of story but it’s still appreciated nonetheless. The characters all also chime in during battle occasionally offering comments as you play. I never found this annoying myself but I think there’s an option to adjust this if you do.

Online/Multiplayer:
Interestingly, every mode in the game can also be played with a buddy. There’s full local co-op with one other player but the party layout doesn’t change so it’s still a party of four characters just being shared between two players. I wouldn’t say this is a huge draw but it’s a nice addition for those who want to share the game with friends.

A full complement of online leaderboards make up the only online component. Each song has an individual scoreboard which is shared between story and freeplay modes, and the side quests in the story also have leaderboards.

Conclusion:
While playing Metronomicon I didn’t want to put it down until my hands hurt, and sometimes persisted in spite of the fatigue. Certainly, some of this is hitting square in the venn diagram of “THINGS ANDY LIKES” but this is just a fantastically crafted game on top of that. The systems all work great together and the soundtrack contains more earworms than should be legally allowed in a game.

It will probably appeal more to rhythm game fans than traditional RPG fans, if just because it requires some degree of ability to play the former genre. There are easier difficulties for those who don’t rock the music games often and if any part of this review sounds intriguing, I’d highly recommend checking out the full release. I’m not sure what the dance floor did to deserve being massacred, but I’ll do so anyway.

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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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