Review by Rocco Pepe
During my time in college I spent a fair bit of time around people who were really into Bemani, a brand of Japanese music arcade games.
Dance Dance Revolution is probably the most well-known, but these folks were into games like Beatmania and Sound Voltex, which have amassed a cult following for their high degree of difficulty and high-energy soundtracks. In the limited time I’ve spent with those machines, I know that I don’t have the dexterity to excel at them, but I can at least appreciate those games and their music from the side.
So when Muse Dash popped up on my radar, I was definitely intrigued. Developed by a Chinese team, the project is clearly going for a bright and pop-y anime aesthetic while also delivering on the sounds of Japanese synthpop, techno and more. While the music may be hype, the game play is definitely a bit more relaxed. Only two buttons are used to play the game, unlike the four to eight you might find in other releases.
It might be easier to compare Muse Dash to something like Rhythm Heaven or Bit.Trip Runner. The player controls a girl who looks like she came straight out of Hi HI Puffy AmiYumi (Do you even remember that show?). As she runs across the stage, you’ll have to manage incoming enemies and pickups across two lanes, all in time with the song’s beat. Each stage has a boss battle as well, so there’s always going to be a point where you’ll have to manage lots of threats coming in at once.
The challenges are generally simple and satisfying, but they can really ramp up on the harder difficulties. In either case, they’re paced out well with the songs that accompany them. The visuals are not only fun and energetic, but also clearly readable in the face of fast action. The selection of songs is also quite strong, with more than a few classics from Bemani games showing up.
I do think that the game might easily end up repetitive over time for those not interested in getting the highest scores. One might tire of playing some songs they’ve already cleared again just to try to level up. Some tracks and many of Muse Dash’s customization options such as alternate costumes and gameplay altering upgrades are locked behind a progression system. More casual players might find the unlocking process to be a bit too tedious, but I personally can’t say that I was all that excited about grinding to get sexy costumes for anime girls. That’s just me.
There are definitely aspects of Muse Dash that aren’t going to appeal to many people. For many, it’s probably the aggressively anime girl style. For others, it’s the music. Personally, it’s a bit difficult for me to wrap my head around much of the text as it’s clearly been translated poorly, even in promotional material.
But one look at something like this and you’ll know if it’s a niche you’re comfortable with. As a fan of rhythm games, Muse Dash demands at least some of your attention, so check it out on Steam or Nintendo Switch. The developers seem to be pushing out free song packs as well, so you may have more to keep you coming back in the future.
Final Recommendation: 👍 Thumbs Up!