Let’s all be honest here: there’s no shortage of music/rhythm games out there. With so many different franchises competing against one another, it can be difficult for a new game to come along and earn its place among the competition. But that’s exactly what developer Sonic Boom Games is attempting to do with Rhythm Zone, a Guitar Hero-style rhythm title that’s available on Steam for approximately ten dollars. While Rhythm Zone is built on commendable ideas, the execution is totally disappointing.
On the surface, Rhythm Zone is identical to every other music game on the market today. Colored notes come streaming towards the player from the top of the screen and the corresponding keys must be pressed as the notes cross over the target line at the bottom. There are only four notes to worry about, which can be tapped out with either A, S, D, and F or J, K, L, and the semicolon. If you properly hit silver-colored notes, a focus meter will fill on the right side of the screen. Activate focus power to potentially double your current multiplier. The multiplier, of course, builds as you accurately hit multiple notes in a row.
The catch in Rhythm Zone is that players can import their own music into the game and it will generate tracks to play on, similar to what Audiosurf did in 2008. With four difficulty levels and a seemingly unlimited number of songs (anything in a music library) to use, one would think Rhythm Zone is the ultimate music game. But it’s not.
It’s impressive how accurate Rhythm Zone is when it comes to creating notes in time with the song’s beat, but that’s also the game’s biggest problem. Rhythm Zone only seems to analyze the beat and doesn’t take into account anything else about the song — at least from a gameplay perspective. There’s nothing engaging or fun about the generated notes; they don’t have any identifiable or iconic pattern to them, nor do they reflect the song’s melody. After importing several tracks into Rhythm Zone, I came to realize that all of them felt about the same. I was just tapping my fingers to a stream of generic note patterns that didn’t capitalize on the uniqueness of the song being played.
That isn’t the only problem with Rhythm Zone. The game only comes with eight featured tracks, and only one of them is available from the start — the other seven need to be downloaded one at a time. These downloads don’t take long, but it’s still surprising that more wasn’t included in the original package. I understand that Rhythm Zone is only ten dollars, but an initial eight song library is weak.
Although the actual button inputs in Rhythm Zone feel accurate and in time with the music, the notes on screen appear to stutter and don’t seem attached to the scrolling track underneath. This is a minor complaint, but it can be distracting when trying to keep up with the harder tunes.
What’s more troubling is the general lack of content and modes in Rhythm Zone. There’s really no system of progression to be found here, as the only game types are Quickplay and Play Your Music (which are generally the same). The only rewards a player can aim for in-game are high scores on the leaderboards, but even that feels hollow compared to the structure of other music titles.
The ideas behind Rhythm Zone are excellent and there is a certain charm to be found in hitting notes in time with your favorite songs. Unfortunately, this music game fails on several fronts. The music analysis generates uninteresting, generic note patterns, there’s no sense of progression or accomplishment for beating songs, and there’s only eight featured tracks included with the original download. Although Rhythm Zone isn’t a bad or broken game, I wouldn’t recommend spending ten dollars on it.