Get enough in-sync dodges, and you’ll enter this Groove World.
In A Nutshell: Played an endless runner like Temple Run before? Now imagine that the things you dodge are timed to the background song.
Harmonix’s first-ever foray into the free-to-play mobile space is what you’d expect from a bunch of veteran console game designers jumping into the model for the first time: a bit rough around the edges though not without merit.
You control a record-collecting music lover who has to collect as many of his or her lost vinyls as possible scattered on the street. All the while, you run in one straight line avoiding obstacles and switching lanes in what could be the busiest and most colourful walkway on the planet.
For every phone booth, dog, parked car and miscellaneous barrier you dodge in accordance to the beat of the playing soundtrack, you build up your groove meter that increases your score multiplier. Dodge enough times perfectly to the tune’s bass beat and you’ll go in a psychedelic groove trance. While in this state, the world gets technicolor-plastered for a short bit and your points are doubled but at the cost of the on-screen dodging indicators missing, so you’ll have to rely on your keen sense of rhythm to keep the streak going.
In keeping with its melodic theme, all records you collect in a run can be spent for upgrading power-ups and character customization. To get more records and VIP passes – the game’s other currency that requires diligent play or up-front cash to unlock – you can complete missions ranging from collecting a set number of gold records to doing consecutive dodges.
Swipe controls for movement are effortless and easily implemented, though there were rare instances when the avatar somehow did not collect power-ups and vinyls while dodging between two obstacles next to each other. While the game looks stylish, running on the same sidewalk gets old very quick. Why not have a day/night cycle or even a different part of town or even a park area to change up the aesthetics a bit?
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The game’s as difficult as you want it to be since you can use your own iOS playlist as levels. Load in high-tempo fares from acts like Slayer and Darude, and you’ll be in a dodging frenzy. Putting on something mellow like a Michael Bolton contemporary will bring you a mellow experience at a medium pace. The four default tracks ease you in the experience just fine; they’re not too difficult to hinder you but not that easy to slog through for a perfect five-star bout.
Getting a five-star run nets you free VIP passes, giving you more incentive to buy more song slots to keep the game going.
The algorithm that generates the level from a song from your phone so far works fine if the track stays on one tempo and beat. If it’s a tune like ‘When You Were Young’ by The Killers where it slows down halfway and picks up, the level won’t be in-sync with the song and it’ll be harder to get perfect dodges. Future updates can tweak that, though in the meantime this can be problematic depending on your smart device’s musical selection.
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Its freemium nature means you’ll be spending lots and lots of records on opening up space for new songs from your personal playlist. It will get to a point where you’ll need to fork out money for more song slots to play on and increase its longevity. Playing through the same 10 songs over and over just to grind will make you want to cave in money-wise. At least it isn’t too passive aggressive about it and it’s not intrusive, save for the obligatory ads that come in after a quick session.
Worth Playing For: The joy of putting in pop culture luminaries from Danny Elfman and John Williams to play on.
Watch Out For: The escalating VIP pass prices, especially if you’re a music aficionado who wants to use his or her ENTIRE 1,000+ playlist for the game.
In Closing: Harmonix’s venture to mobile is a decent sprint, but it’s no full-fledged marathon.