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Rhythm Action Review Special: Phase, Beats, Musika and Audiosurf

"Guitar Hero's getting churned out at such an astonishing rate these days it's hard to be even remotely excited about it—especially when the core gameplay is worse than it was when the game was called "Frequency" and came out in 2001, and you could play it sitting down without having to be ironic about it or pretending to like The Killers."

This rhythm action school of thought, so eloquently outlined here by the ever-bullish UK:RESISTANCE, maintains that something has been lost on the genre's path from niche, low print run titles like Vib Ribbon, Mad Maestro and Frequency to the all-conquering mainstream successes of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Now a poster child for the accessible and inclusive new world order of videogames, rhythm action was once the domain of anachronistically simple yet often formidably challenging cult curios that virtually always boiled down to one basic premise: Press buttons in time with the beat.

Of course, it's a testament to that inherently fun mechanic that you could argue the genre's not moved on much at all. At the end of the day, the gameplay of Guitar Hero and Rock Band is still predicated on timing, and thankfully the challenge of those earlier titles has survived in the harder difficulty levels of today's games. Nevertheless many earlier experiments at playing with music, and crucially with a controller that in no way resembles a musical instrument, led to some truly singular gaming visions and control systems, which in some ways eclipse the innovations of more literal, peripheral-based titles.

So it's heartening to review a selection of new, low budget games that constitute a slight resurgence in the founding rhythm action principles, utilizing basic control schemes to make playing with music fun. All are downloadable and priced under $10, all integrate the player's own music collection with their gameplay, and all have silly, cred-craving one-word titles. Let's take a look...

Category Tags
Genre(s): Music/Dance  
Articles: Columns  

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