I’m sure this has happened to all of us. You’re hanging out with some friends playing Guitar Hero or Rock Band (whichever rhythm game you please) and the conversation inevitably turns to “Man, what songs would be awesome to play but will never get into the game because EA or Activision doesn’t care about X music scene?”
How great would it be if there was a rhythm game just like Guitar Hero where you got to choose which songs you play? Well, if you’ve asked yourself this, chances are you’ll want to check out Rhythm Zone, an indie gem that allows gamers to play a Guitar Hero-like game with their own MP3s. But a good concept does not instantly make a great game. Is Rhythm Zone a must have for music gamers, or does it miss a beat in its execution? Read on to find out.
On its surface, Rhythm Zone is a pretty good replica of Guitar Hero. Notes will stream down the screen in four different lanes. It is up to you to press the keys that correspond to each lane in perfect rhythm to the song. The longer you can keep the rhythm the more points you get. Sure there are some minor changes; for instance you don’t need to hit a strum bar to trigger each note or the fact that there are only four buttons, but at it’s core Rhythm Zone is 100% Guitar Hero.
The game comes with over fifty tracks of various genres from “up and coming indie artists,” plus more songs are added every month. The real selling point, however, is that you can import MP3s (or whatever file type you use for your music) into the game. Sure, the custom songs you add will not deliver as tailored an experience as the songs from Guitar Hero, but what do you expect? The game has to analyze your songs and generate the notes for you, unlike Guitar Hero where the game developers make the specific pattern to match the pre-selected songs. I’m willing to pay that price to finally be able to play an Aesop Rock song in a videogame. Rhythm Zone will even go so far as to validate the artist and song title by connecting to Last.FM and checking everything out.
There is a flip side to this however. Rhythm Zone will only allow songs that check out on Last.FM onto their leader boards. While this isn’t a game breaking issue for me (considering you can still play the songs, you just don’t get credit for them), I know that some members of the gaming community may find this annoying.
Rhythm Zone also features over eighty Steam achievements, as well as a leveling/experience system. The thing is, I’ve yet to really find a purpose for this leveling system besides bragging rights. I guess it’s to add some incentive for the player considering there is no career/campaign mode.
While I had a pretty damn good time playing Rhythm Zone, it is not a perfect game. One of my main complaints deals with the game’s method for adding songs. You see, you can only add one song at a time, making the prospect of transferring over the 5000+ songs I have on my computer all that much more daunting. On top of that, each time you add a song, Rhythm Zone needs to analyze it in order to create the actual note pattern. My only problem with this is that for short songs it takes anywhere from thirty seconds to a minute. Longer songs on the other hand can take a while, adding even more of a delay between me and my music gaming.
Another issue I had with this game is that there isn’t really any feedback when you screw up. Anyone who has played Guitar Hero or Rock Band is familiar with the sound the game makes when you hit the wrong note or strum at the wrong time. Rhythm Zone doesn’t provide the game with any audible hints that you messed up a note. I’d often find my self glancing down at my combo meter to see if I screwed up a note, only to screw up a note cause I’m not watching the track.
Despite these issues, Rhythm Zone is still a lot of fun. Personally, I am willing to put up with these few problems just for the chance to play songs that would never have been included in Guitar Hero or Rock Band. On top of that, the game is only $9.99. I’ve spent more than that on a single track pack for Rock Band. If you’re a big fan of rhythm games but would like to see something new or have some control over which songs are available to play, do yourself a favor a pick up Rhythm Zone.
While Rhythm Zone's graphics may not have as much "pop" as its mainstream brother's, they still get the job done. Besides, its the music that matters.
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While the gameplay is solid, there are a few missteps that (no audio feedback, etc.) ultimately detract from the game.
The tracks that come with the game feature a wide variety of genres, but I found myself skipping their songs and going right for my own.
With the ability to add any song you have on your computer, Rhythm Zone has an almost endless level of replayability.
Rhythm Zone is a game that has some faults, but those faults of over shadowed by the limitless list of songs you can add.