Rhythm Zone lets you play along to your own music library, but is far too flawed to warrant a purchase.
The console gaming market has seen a real boom in the music and rhythm genre in recent years, with the likes of Guitar Hero and Rock Band bringing friends and family together with one true goal in mind – to rock out. Of course, the PC isn’t so suited to such an experience, as the idea of a group of people congregating around a computer monitor in a study isn’t so rock ‘n’ roll.
A number of developers have still had a fair crack at it, of course. Rhythm Zone is Sonic Boom’s take on the concept, with the twist that you can import your own music library into the game and play any song you want. While it sounds like a nice idea on paper, the end result is far too random, and this plus the lack of content makes Rhythm Zone difficult to recommend.
If you’ve played any of the recent music games, you’ll know exactly what to expect here. Different coloured notes scroll down the screen, and as they hit the bar at the bottom, your job is to press the corresponding button. String together a nice combo and watch your points soar, or miss one too many notes and you’ll fail the song.
The way in which Rhythm Zone differs to your standard Guitar Hero affair is that the notes haven’t been manually placed by the developers to give that sense that you’re actually playing the song. Instead, the game uses a formula to generate the note layout based on the wave patterns of the song. This technique allows for a rather interesting addition to the genre – the ability to add and play along to any of your own music.
Unfortunately, this idea is spectacularly flawed. The Guitar Hero games are great fun due to the fact that, as mentioned above, you feel like you’re actually playing the song. While the notes thrown at you in Rhythm Zone are usually always in time and on the beat, they’re also completely random and never follow the actual guitar line of the song. Hence, rather than ‘playing the song’, you are in fact just tapping buttons to a beat.
There are a fair number of issues with the execution, too. The games uses popular music site Last.fm to grab information about each song that you choose from your music library, but it can take up to a minute to add an individual song to the game. Also, if a song isn’t available on Last.fm or the site cannot find exactly what you’re looking for, you won’t be able to play that song.
The default method of control is your keyboard, but this isn’t much fun. Fortunately, you can plug an Xbox or Playstation guitar controller into your PC and use that to play the game. This works far better, although you still won’t be using the strummer, and must simply press the buttons on the guitar neck. It’s also rather awkward to set up initially, with a distinct lack of explanation making it all the more difficult.
As of yet, the only available option is to play a single song, with no career-based mode or multiplayer option present. There’s also a rather strange tilting effect applied to songs at various intervals, which causes the fretboard to move around the screen. It’s really disorientating and rather unnecessary – why the developers added this feature is quite the mystery.
Rhythm Zone‘s only saving grace is the ranking system and leaderboards. As you complete songs, you’ll gain points which go towards your rock legend rank. Leaderboards also save all your best scores, showing how you fare against other people from around the world. It’s great for seeing the kinds of music people are playing, and how good you are at stringing those combos together.
As it stands, it isn’t really worth investing in Rhythm Zone. If you already own one of the console-based music games, there’s nothing here that you’ll find remotely enjoyable. On the flipside, if you’ve never played a rhythm game before, this is not a very good place to start.