Need to know
What is it? A rhythm game following the guitarist of a 1970s rock band.
Expect to pay: £11.39/$15
Release date: Out now
Developer: Glee-Cheese Studio
Reviewed on: Intel Core i7-10750H, 16GB RAM, GeForce RTX 2060
Link: Official site (opens in new tab)
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If Guitar Hero is about the fantasy of being a rock legend, A Musical Story is about the reality. There can be no whiffing of notes here, and no strutting around your living room like a Rock God. This is a tough, unusual rhythm game that insists on perfection for each of its instrumental songs. That’s perfection through repetition, through learning each rhythm and getting a feel for the music. It’s probably a more accurate representation of the process of learning a song. Real rock stars don’t get a timeline showing them when, exactly, they need to hit each note.
So it goes in A Musical Story, a game where the timeline has (mostly) disappeared. Instead, you need to learn the tempo and rhythm of each tune (tapping your toes, or nodding your head like a wanker helps). It’s an uncompromising rhythm game, and I like it for that. After passing each exam-like song section, you’re rewarded with another story chunk, which is told via beautiful animation and (surely) the game soundtrack of the year.
(Image credit: Glee-Cheese Studio)
It feels like A Musical Story is a game caught between two worlds, something immediately evident when you look at the screenshots. There are the cutscenes, and the gameplay, and they don’t meaningfully connect—so much so that the story fades out, so as not to be a distraction. And yet I enjoyed getting back to the yarn, feeling the relief of passing each frustrating test as the song gradually formed around me. There’s a fantastic, varied soundtrack that gels perfectly with the animation, morphing from one genre to another, as best suits the scene.
Despite my issues with how it connects, the actual rhythm mechanics are strong, paring the genre down to its essentials while still making it feel like you’re playing a real instrument. A Musical Story wrings a lot of challenge out of just two buttons or keys. You’re only ever tapping or holding one, the other, or both at once, but it takes skill to get the rhythm of each song down.
I did feel connected to the music—even as I failed its tests repeatedly—and without having to plug a plastic guitar into my computer. I just wish the game knew what it wanted to be: a story you experience, or a set of challenges you master. As it is, it’s somewhere awkwardly in the middle.
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