Review by Paralistalon

"Highly infectious tunes and addictive, challenging gameplay, but relatively short"

Mevo & The Grooveriders

Overview:
This is an indie rhythm game where the goal is to press either the left or right (or both) Shift keys as your Mevo avatar passes by the notes. Think of that bouncing Mickey Mouse head from those old sing-a-longs. It's very similar in concept to Donkey Conga for the Gamecube, with the main difference being that each song is played on a 2D side-scrolling level rather than a static backdrop. You lose life by failing to press the appropriate key at the right time, with extra life lost if that key was on a monster or obstacle.

Gameplay:
The demo includes the first three levels. They are mostly just training levels. You get a second tutorial following them showing you some of the more advanced concepts like “holds” and branching paths. Each level is unlocked by successfully completing the previous one. Simply surviving a level gets you a silver medal, or “gruv.” You can then replay the level to earn a gold and diamond gruv. The requirements for earning these gruvs vary by level and include getting higher than a certain score, getting a certain number of perfectly timed hits, and getting a certain number of successive notes without missing any.

You can customize your avatar with different suits and heads that you can buy with “funk” points you get from playing levels. You can also select from 5 different dance themes for your Mevo ranging from ballet to kung-fu. Parts and dances are unlocked by earning gruvs. Body parts also confer a special bonus. In each level, there are predetermined powerup points. When you pass these powerup points, you get the bonus that your suit gives you for a certain duration. An example of one such bonus is Slow-Mo, that slows down time. Since powerup points are usually located preceding difficult parts of the level, picking the rights ones will really help in earning all the gruvs. Once you are a more skilled player, you'll want to use the suits that give you point bonuses rather than tangible help. The downside is that you'll sometimes end up picking suits you don't like the looks of just to get the better bonus they provide.

Music:
The tunes are, as the title of the game implies, upbeat and funky. I can describe it best as funk-inspired electronic video game music, so don't think it's going to be like playing to a James Brown album. By that matter, the music isn't as polished as with other dance games like Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero. But it is very catchy, and there are a good variety of styles. For example, I loved the funky takes on Egyptian music in the desert levels.

I will say that my biggest gripe with the game is the synch with the music. There is a slight, roughly half-second delay from when you hit a note to when it registers the tune. I eventually got used to this… it's kind of like having to hit the notes on the offbeat before the tune… but it detracts from the immersion with the music. Additionally, you may find that the notes don't always correspond to any systematic beat inherent in the song, instead seeming to randomly shift in focus from one funky rhythm to another over top of the background of the song. It can be frustrating to veteran Bemani players who like to anticipate the beat rather than having to rely so heavily on the visuals like Mevo does.

[UPDATE] The sound lag in Vista issue was fixed in a recent patch. This drastically improved the gameplay.

Graphics:
The graphics are simple and stylized. The maximum resolution is 800x600, which some people might have a problem with. However, I did find that the game features some very beautiful background colors that shift as you progress through the levels. So while definitely nothing technically amazing to look at, they set a fun mood, and you're mostly going to be looking at the arrows anyway.

Length and Challenge:
There are 15 levels in all. My first worry with this game was that it looked like it was going to be a cakewalk to play through. This was thankfully not so. The game's difficulty starts picking up quickly after level 5, and I can say the last 8 levels are all very challenging to keep combos going. These levels also have points where you can choose to take an easy path or a hard path, and these hard paths can be overwhelmingly hard to keep a combo going in.

I beat the game and unlocked all the gruvs in two days. I then spent the next couple of days going back and trying to get decent scores on all the levels. That's about the extent of the game's replayability. But it was a blast and well worth the $10 price tag on Steam. The game's official site, mevoworld.com, is not yet up and running, but it will supposedly have online rankings and other community features to hopefully add to the experience.

[UPDATE] Mevoworld.com is up and lists the top 10 scores for each level. This was a welcome addition for those players (like myself) who like having motivation to hit as many perfects in a song as possible. I've found myself coming back to the game periodically just to jam to the catchy songs.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/25/09, Updated 06/01/09

Game Release: Mevo & the Grooveriders (US, 03/19/09)


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