Review: Muse Dash

Review: Muse Dash

Muse Dash is a rhythm game developed by PeroPeroGames and published by X.D. Network Inc. Recently, it made its way to Nintendo Switch and PC, containing all DLC featured in the previously released mobile version. It’s a simple rhythm game, but players should be able to get some decent enjoyment out of it despite it’s divisive visuals and unfamiliar track list.

Title: Muse Dash
Developer: PeroPeroGames
Platform:  Nintendo Switch, PC
Game Version: Final
Review Copy: Provided by Publisher
Interface: Controller
Available on the Nintendo Switch eShop, Steam, Google Play, and the App Store

In Muse Dash, you play as one of three characters: Rin, the bassist and starting character, Buro the bear riding schoolgirl, and Marija the violinist. all with their own special abilities as well as several different unlockable costumes which change said abilities. Levels are stylized similarly to a sidescrolling beat’em up and after selecting a character and choosing a song, players must hit enemies and avoid hazards at the right time in tune with the currently playing song by using one button on each of the Joy-Cons. While the combination suggested is Y on the right Joy-Con and the right arrow on the left Joy-Con — likely for symmetrical reasons –, any face button, directional button, or shoulder button can be used. My preference is Y and the up directional button, since all directional buttons are a jump to hit the higher enemies, and luckily when playing everything felt correctly in sync.

In addition to the three player characters and multiple costumes, there are also small beings called Elfins that can be unlocked over time and grant other bonuses, such as preventing combo streak breaks or briefly extending fever time. To unlock Elfins as well as new costumes and other collectibles, specific items are collected from completing different songs. One issue that comes from this is it’s unclear how exactly these items are unlocked and which songs will give you which items and when, so you just have to grind until you’ve obtained enough of a specific item to unlock a new costume or Elfin.

As in most rhythm games, there are different colored notes, or in this case enemies. Pink enemies are on the ground while blue enemies are in the air, with both appearing more frequently as the difficulty increases. There are also bigger enemies to represent louder sounds, but they take only one hit just like the others. In addition to these bigger one note enemies, there are also specific robots enemies to perform multi-hit combos on, as well as buzzsaw obstacles to jump over and disappearing ghosts to hit for bonus points. Missing any enemies (besides ghosts) or obstacles will reduce the player’s health, but a small amount health can be restored by picking up hearts that are sometimes carried by enemies and other times are by themselves.

As a level goes on, a boss character, who will shoot a handful of objects or enemies at you, will appear, usually towards the middle or end of a song. Similar to the multi-hit enemies, these bosses are meant for multi-hit combos, and will try to attack you directly at certain points. If you manage to hit every, or at least the majority of enemies and notes in a song, it will result in a full combo at the end.

Besides enemies, there are also sheets, which are notes you hold down for a limited amount of time. These provide a nice break in the more intense levels, but become excruciatingly difficult when there are multiple shorter sheets in a row. Once the blue bar has filled up over time from having a long enough combo streak due to proper timing, players will temporarily go into fever mode, further increasing their score.

There are a large variety of songs available at the start, organized throughout several different lists, with players usually gaining several in-game achievements each time the play. All songs feel like they’re at an appropriate length, and avoid dragging on the way some songs in other rhythm games do. This allows both shorter gameplay sessions through playing just one of two songs, or longer sessions for playing even more songs in succession depending on player preference. A favorites list is also created with the songs the player has played through the most, although a list to keep track of songs not yet played would also be helpful as switching between and scrolling through each list to find them is an unnecessary waste of time, even if it doesn’t take that long.

New songs unlock on the default list as players level up, although after level 20 players only unlock songs every two levels, with the last two unlocking at level 50 and level 55 respectively. Sometimes it can take awhile to gain enough experience to level up and unlock a new song, particularly when playing on a lower difficulty setting. Idol Buro can help reduce this since her special ability is being able to gain 50 percent bonus experience, but since the aforementioned problem of not knowing when you’ll get the necessary items to unlock her still remains you may well have all songs unlocked before then.

Songs also have different levels of difficulty separate from difficulty selected by the player, with higher leveled songs being more difficult. The one problem with difficulty selection is that three difficulties are Easy, Hard, and Master, with no Normal/Medium option. Higher level songs on Easy mode are the closest players will find to a difficulty between Medium and Hard, creating a larger skill gap between difficulties unless you’ve already mastered all songs on Easy mode. The last song unlocked also only has a hard mode as its default until after the first time players get through it, but the spike between difficulty levels makes it too tough for anyone who has been playing all other songs on Easy mode.

While simple, the two button gameplay featured in Muse Dash stays engaging throughout, and will make players constantly want to level up and unlock the next song. It may have a few minor problems, with the biggest being the gap between difficulty levels, but if players don’t mind that as well as some additional level grinding, then the smaller flaws probably won’t bother them either. The cutesy anime aesthetic may not be for everyone, and the music may not be as familiar as those featured in the playlists of various Taiko Drum Master games, but those looking for a new rhythm game will likely be satisfied with Muse Dash.

Muse Dash is available on PC and Nintendo Switch.

 

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