written by Isaac Thummel (@_IsaacT)
The Metronomicon is a Rhythm/RPG game developed by Puuba and produced by Kasedo Games. To me this felt like the game of mashups and cross overs. Instantly I feel like it is a Dance Dance Revolution with a fantasy coat of paint on it. A party of four brightly colored highly stylized characters stands in clothing that is somewhere between modern day club wear and high fantasy architypes fighting against an Owl dancing in a stripped muscle shirt wearing stunner shades. I will give the game this, it is GORGEOUS.
Everything on the screen is bursting with personality and spunk, from the team you control, to the enemies you fight, to the background locations you fight at, and the random dancers that pop up in the foreground. Which brings up the first major gripe; the art team did such a fantastic job with the game yet I spend all my time zoned in on the falling notes above my team. I only noticed how much interesting stuff is going on in each level when I went back and watched my gameplay footage to take notes. Seriously, I barely registered who/what I was fighting. I would quickly glance over to see what element they were before darting back to the cascading notes.
So what is The Metronomicon? Well in the game you start off playing a cast of four characters who are students at a local dance school that are sent out to investigate these strange phenomenon that are occurring all over the lands. They are raves guys. You are sent out to investigate raves. Once you arrive the game plays out like a rhythm game such as DDR or Guitar hero where notes tumble down the screen in one of four inputs that you have to hit at the right moment building up combos. By doing this you are able to cast abilities that have an array of effects from dealing damage, to healing your party, and applying buffs and debuffs. Each of the four characters has a different set of abilities that can be done in typical tank/dps/support/healer architypes.
Damage dealing abilities and monsters have elemental alignments that have a rock-paper-scissors system of weak and strong against each other. Capitalizing on these will allow you to take down your enemies faster, yet I had a hard time keeping in mind what elements each enemy was as they came in and out of combat since I was focusing on the QTE gameplay. Other than the abilities that you can swap out on your team you also gain items from beating levels that you can equip for your team. Aside from the rare occasion most of them are just slight stat increases or percentage increases to abilities which to me felt like a missed opportunity. It was blatantly clear that each item was meant to go on one maybe two different characters. Some of them you couldn’t even equip to certain characters. Instead of having interesting abilities or proc chances for interesting things, I just get plus 15 to strength or plus 10 to magic. Yet it doesn’t tell me what that actually translates to. Is health better for my tank or defense? Does Magic increase my healing abilities or is it based off my attack? Who knows.
Playing Story Mode has you going through different levels to investigate the raves while leveling up your team and customizing their loadout of abilities and items. Each Overworld is themed according to its name such as The Wild Forest, The Haunted Kingdom, and Mount Rage. Once again the artwork laying out these spaces is incredible. They are however marred when you see the plain set of track listing up in the corner that looks like a music player widget stuck into the game. Selecting each track gives you a brief sampling of the music with a song difficulty and enemy difficulty rating next to it. In the opposite corner is a listing of the Global Top Scores and in the top you have the ability to change to Overworld’s difficulty from Easy, Medium, and Hard.
The music is a mix of electronic and indie music with exclusive tracks from Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence, Shiny Toy Guns, YACHT, Perturbator, J-Punch, and Dj CUTMAN. Jimmy being the only name on that list that I recognize leads me to admitting the music genre portrayed in the game is not my cup of tea. Whether there are good tracks here or not will be completely up to each player and their musical taste. A feature that I would love to see come to the game is the ability to import your own music to the game. I would love to slay some dragons and punch succubus faces with some epic Dio or some stompy VNV Nation playing.
Going through the levels you gain items, level-up your abilities and characters, unlock new characters to change out your four man team with, and gain two forms of in game currency. The first is Street Creds which you spend to unlock new areas in your school such as the achievement viewing screen, the DJ Room, and the laboratory. The second being elemental crystals you use in the rooms, like in the DJ room to be able to listen to songs you have already beaten in the game. There is also an arena that you unlock that allows you to play levels under different rules and party compositions to unlock more items and currency to spend.
Now each level you play is on a time limit. You have to get a high enough score in the allotted time to win while keeping your characters alive. To me this felt a bit odd since I would be defeating enemy after enemy with no real purpose after I got the required minimum to win while I waited for the timer to run down. It made the combat feel meaningless to me. Especially when I’d be in the middle of taking a guy down and the song would end so combat ended as well. It made me feel like each level is just about chasing the highest score possible. There was a mechanical and narrative disconnect that rubbed me the wrong way. Also why am I fighting these guys? I just show up at their party and start smacking them around and setting them on fire. The game narrative tells us that these parties are attracting monsters that are disturbing peaceful villages yet when you show up everyone is just happy and dancing! I’m the villain here, not them!
At the end of each Overworld there is a Boss level that must be completed to move on to the next Overworld. These felt like every other level just with a new unique monster in it that has a bigger health bar. Everything else is the same: same time limit, same minimum score to win, same keeping your team alive. Rather than giving different rules or ways to interact with the team and world.
So the main gameplay loop is playing the rhythm game in each level while listening to the different tracks. I was never a fan of DDR games whether playing them on dance pads or using a controller. I enjoyed the guitar hero and rock band games only when using the plastic instrument controllers. The illusion it gives of playing those instruments is what kept me playing through bad songs and good. Now playing that same style of game, using a keyboard or controller, and listening to music I don’t like made it hard to continue this game. I feel that the RPG elements of the game were very lacking. What roles am I playing in this game? The characters are fully developed and the items feel insignificant outside of numerical increases.
The Metronomicon reminds me in a lot of ways of the original Puzzle Quest. I was a huge fan of it when it came out and my friend who was as much as of a fantasy rpg nerd as myself hated it. When I asked him why he told me he didn’t like match three games. Just because there was an RPG element slapped onto it didn’t suddenly make him like match three games. Is The Metronomicon a bad game? No, not at all. It is very well polished, runs super smooth, the input calibration was spot on, no bugs or glitches in my play time, animations and voice acting were great. The dev has even released DLC with new tracks in it to keep things going for those loving the game. I just think that this game is aimed at a very specific audience. An audience I am not a part of. If you loved the DDR games of by gone years and want a ‘RPG’ color of paint washed over it. This is the game for you!