Rhythm Fighter Review: A Decent Beat
It takes a lot to get me to notice new roguelikes. Despite a genuine fondness for the genre, a seemingly constant stream of mediocre releases has soured my interest. Not every game can be a Dead Cells or Hades. For this reason, I wasn't surprised to learn that a title like Echo Games’ Rhythm Fighter flew way under my radar.
Previously released on PC and now headed to the Nintendo Switch, this colorful action title offers the genre's basics: randomly generated levels and items, a card system, and multiple in-game currencies.
By themselves, none of those things inherently make Rhythm Fighter stand out. And while the premise might raise an eyebrow – animals taking up arms to defend Earth from violent vegetables sounds interesting – there are plenty of other games offering similar content.
Thankfully, Echo Games did a little more than just copy and paste popular gameplay mechanics into Rhythm Fighter.
Rhythm Fighter Review: A Decent Beat
All of Rhythm Fighter’s action takes place on a horizontal plane. Players move left to right (and vice versa) as they navigate the game’s segmented levels, though diverging paths, often located at the top and bottom of the screen, allow for a bit of exploration. Some areas are safe havens, housing shops that sell health items and powerups. Others might lead to environmental challenges and secret encounters.
The idea is to move through a level while collecting as many boons as possible before heading to the boss area. If you survive that final encounter, you move on to the next level. Rinse and repeat.
Of course, all of this is easier said than done. That's partially because of the game's rhythm-based combat. In order to be successful, you have to move and attack on the beat while learning the capabilities of each enemy as they also move to the beat at different speeds.
A carrot might be a pushover, but a Tai Chi practicing cabbage knows how to throw a punch. Luckily, every enemy has a tell to help you better get in the groove. For example, one might have a windup or glow that lets you know they’re going to attack.
The last thing to contend with is moving and attacking in relation to space. Basic movement is tied to a hop, so moving forward and back one space at a time is simple. Two spaces are needed to roll past enemies and environmental hazards, though, and certain attacks can only land if an opponent is right in front of or behind you. Other moves can target enemies several spaces away.
What makes things challenging is how frequently Rhythm Fighter mixes up opponents. Some throw slow-moving projectiles several spaces in front of them. Others try and bait you into moving close (staying out of a fire-breathing cayenne pepper’s attack range while landing hits on a constantly moving tater is tough). And that’s to say nothing of the difficult boss fights. Not only do they have long health bars and devastating attacks, but they also spawn several minions to get in your way.
It doesn’t take much to become overwhelmed at any given moment.
Lighthearted and Accessible
Most of my time spent playing Rhythm Fighter was pleasant. Besides being a little too repetitive in places (despite its more random elements), I enjoyed battering veggies as they hipped and hopped in my direction. The techno-like beats kept things lighthearted, too, a deceptive measure considering how challenging the game can be.
There are some extra bits that help make death more palatable, though.
Hitting various in-game achievements — like beating a certain number of a given enemy — unlocks new characters, modes, and features. A training bot lets you spar with enemies and bosses that have been previously encountered. Collectible hearts can be used to level up characters. New weapons eventually become available, randomly showing up in chests and shops during play.
With all of these things working together, Rhythm Fighter’s difficulty curve bends back towards the player. These types of features are there to keep you invested by offering progressive based incentives, and they help make Rhythm Fighter slightly more accessible.
The same can be said of the game’s rhythm mechanics and customization options. Landing multiple hits or moves on the beat boosts your attacks, eventually powering up your character, something that's essential to tackling the game's really tough enemies. That said, while missing the beat or getting hit saps your strength, it doesn't prevent you from attacking or moving; the game doesn't stop you cold just because you’re off the beat.
Hints encourage keeping the sound on, but Rhythm Fighter’s visual cues make it possible to play without being able to hear the music. If you don’t jive with the basic control schemes, you can change the button layout manually, and if you're struggling to stay on beat, you can adjust the music’s tempo to account for any possible delays.
There isn’t anything here that’s groundbreaking or as inclusive as, say, Marvel’s Spider-Man. But there's been some effort placed on making a challenging game that people with varying skill levels and needs can play.
Rhythm Fighter Review – The Bottom Line
- Entertaining rhythm-based combat
- Somewhat accessible
- Decent music
- Unremarkable gameplay
- Repetitive to a fault
Echo Games’ Rhythm Fighter isn’t as unique as it wants to be. While it offers a lot of the genre's staple mechanics, it doesn't do much with them — Rhythm Fighter often feels like the "lesser version" of something else.
On the other hand, its rhythm-based combat, achievement system, and accessible nature offer compelling arguments to keep the game downloaded on my Switch.
Will I be playing Rhythm Fighter a month or two from now? Probably not. Am I enjoying my time with it at the moment? Certainly.
[Note: Coconut Island Games provided the copy of Rhythm Fighter used for this review.]