Review | Rhythm Sprout

Originally published at: Review | Rhythm Sprout - XboxEra

By now there’s no shortage of rhythm games on our consoles, with franchises like DJ Max, Superbeat, Taiko no Tatsujin and Rocksmith giving music fans plenty to chew on. And lately there’s a vast selection of hybrid games, mixing other genres into the mix, such as the FPS formula of the recent BPM: Bullets Per Minute and Metal: Hellsinger, the top-down action of Soundfall, or even the recently shadowdropped Hi-Fi Rush with its character action style gameplay. Rhythm Sprout takes yet another turn in this ever-evolving genre, mixing the core of the note-hitting music games with a bit of a semi-automated combat. Let’s see what this lil’ sprout has to offer!

Six pound onion

The premise of the game is very simple – our onion-headed hero is sent by the king of the Vegetable Kingdom to rescue his daughter, supposedly kidnapped by the evil King Sugar Daddy whose candy army invaded the colourful lands. And while the story itself is very simple, the game’s cute and colourful visuals and most importantly the fantastic humor makes it stand out. I laughed out loud multiple times as particularly funny dialogues, unexpected cutscenes and bizarre boss fights made the game’s 20 + 5 story music tracks more than just a fun playlist to move to the rhythm to. And to be fair, it’s a pretty impressive soundtrack – no licensed tracks that I know of, but an interesting variety including lo-fi, drum & bass, some rock elements, modern trap sounds and even a song winking at k-pop. Some pretty good melodies all around.

So how does this one actually play? It’s a fairly standard rhythm game at it may first appear, with the core of the gameplay oriented around right notes which have to be hit with a face button of your choice, left notes where any button on the D-pad goes, and dodge notes with the RB. The first two are what make the stages go forward: each correctly hit note moves the player forward, closer to the finish. Missing one wastes some points, but there’s no other penalties, though a certain amount of note have to be hit to progress, so the tune may start looping again near the end. Dodge notes, on the other hand, have to hit, otherwise a piece of health is lost and, if those go down to 0, back to the start of the song we go. And this is crucial in combat…

Combat? In my rhythm game?

Indeed, there’s combat in Rhythm Sprout, though this also follows the stages’ linear formula. In fixed moments of specific stages, the music slightly changes, as a candy-themed enemy attacks the player. These can attack the player, hence the dodge notes to avoid their attacks, but usually also present a rapid fire of left and right notes. Again, these aren’t mandatory to hit, but the more we manage to hit the sooner the enemy goes down. Indeed, if you’re not looking for the highest of scores or the maximum rating, it can make sense sometimes to ignore some particularly difficult note sequences and focus on hitting those dodges right. Though a set amount of correct attack notes hit also regenerates health, so… decisions, decisions.

Each level is usually preceded and ended by a pretty funny cutscene, as the player goes through various biomes meeting increasingly weird characters. Boss stages also come into play, and whereas the first two or so are pretty standard, the game’s unusual humor takes key role in the progression of the gameplay as well, with some of these “big” encounters resolving in rather odd ways. The game’s intentionally unpredictable nature does result in some less pleasant difficulty spikes, with certain songs suddenly much harder than the ones before or after in multiple occasions, and not just in boss fights. Fortunately there’s also a beginner mode where the left and right notes are fused into one and the same, so pressing any face button or direction on the D-pad is acceptable to hit them.

My style

Beginner mode isn’t the only gameplay variation that can be applied to stages however. Finishing either that or the regular difficulty, the EX modes are unlocked for said stage. These are 4 different mutators of sort that can be played one by one or even multiple ones at the same time, featuring challenges like a mirrored mode, faster speed or randomized notes. These offer an extra challenge but don’t really contribute to the game progression – for that, it’s enough to hit certain score and note combo thresholds to reach the maximum amount of stars unlockable, which then helps unlocking new skins for our protagonist and even new weaponry. All cosmetic, mind.

The game’s campaign is a whopping 20 levels with as many songs to boot, but it doesn’t end there at all. Not only the aforementioned EX modes add extra layers of fun, with the high score chases and unlocks adding plenty more hours of content, but after the end credits roll the player unlocks a special 5-level prequel story with brand new songs. And that ain’t the end of it – there’s even 5 extremely tough challenge levels in spectral worlds that are tough to finish even in beginner mode – so good luck with those! All in all, there’s plenty of content for a game that may appear like a cute little indie “funsy” without much content.

Can’t get you Sprout of my head

The game’s cutesy style that reminisces perhaps too many forgettable indie games is only a ruse – the game has charming characters, the humor is on point, the amount and variety of content is quite impressive and, most importantly, the gameplay works very well. It isn’t the most complex or riveting gameplay loop, but then again the popularity of titles like Muse Dash show how simplicity and polish walk hand in hand, and now Rhythm Sprout is furtger proof of this. Recommended to all rhythm game fans looking for a more humorous take on the genre.