Review – Rhythm Planet (PS VR2)
When I first encountered Rhythm Planet on PlayStation Network, the first thing I thought of was something akin to Rhythm Heaven, not to be confused with THEATRHYTM FINAL BAR LINE or Rhythm Sprout. I just want to be clear that this was the basis of what I thought this game would be. I had to keep reminding myself: no no, this is “planet”, get your head in the game, and go back down to “Earth” (puns very much intended).
Rhythm Planet by Aoga Technology and GAMEPOCH Star Journey. It has you taking control of a faceless human in a planet of raccoons. There really isn’t any context or story regarding the setting, it is just what it is. You play four rhythm based games in five different planets, totaling to twenty stages in the base game. In the planets screen you can see other planets with a lock icon on them because they are planning on releasing more content in the future.
The game itself is overall quite shallow, as there is only one game mode. The controls and goal for each stage are pretty repetitive as well, with only few that stands apart from the rest. The minigames has you shearing sheep, bashing watermelons with your head, shooting or slashing aliens, all while following a rhythm.
When you start the game it asks you which your dominant hand is (which also changeable at any time with the press of square button), which also happens to be its only accessible option in the game. Afterwards, you choose the planet to play in (you have only one planet available at first) and you have five minigames to complete in order before the next planet is unlocked. To “complete” a minigame, you have to get at least one star in it, so there is a possibility that the game will end or become locked for you if there’s a minigame you can’t complete. Most of the minigames are simple enough that even though each provides you with a tutorial at the start of each one, that the tutorial can easily be skipped, and I would often recommend doing so.
The reason why I would suggest sometimes skipping the tutorial, is because it moves really slow and often hinders your understanding of the minigame being presented. The tutorial is usually in two to three parts. First part gets you to do the most basic action required, second part introduces the beat, and last part shows the variation to the beat (typically just a faster version), and asks you to complete each part flawlessly twice. If you mess up any of the parts, you have to do it all again, and all this moves really slowly. The worst part is that they’ll show you visual or auditory cues in the tutorial that are irrelevant to the minigame! Luckily, there is an option to skip, which you have to choose every time you attempt a minigame because there is no option to auto-skip tutorials even after you’ve done it before.
After you’ve gotten a hang of the minigame through the tutorial, or skipping it entirely, you can finally play the minigame! These comprise the entirety of the gameplay in Rhythm Planet. My favourite part about each minigame is that it doesn’t have a “health bar”, where if you are awful at it, the game stops abruptly. It allows you to play it through, even if you miss every single beat. This lack of a health bar is probably one of the main reasons why I would recommend this game to a younger audience, because it doesn’t disrupt the experience and fun. However, being a VR game, it isn’t really something that should be recommended to a younger audience, but this quality of life feature is welcome nonetheless.
So what kind of minigames can you expect? Super weird ones of course! Like I said before, when I first saw this game, I thought of Rhythm Heaven, which was a sort of micro-game medley in quick succession. Rhythm Planet follows suit in terms of wacky minigames incorporating rhythm and beat, without the addictive gameplay loop that Rhythm Heaven or WarioWare has. It has you shearing sheep, hitting baseballs thrown by an octopus, posing for a photographer, hitting watermelons with your head, running and jumping away from airport security, and the most memorable of them all: a bark-off with a Husky.
The setting of each minigame is vibrant, colourful, and crisp, and is definitely one of the best features Rhythm Planet has. Not only that, the sound effects and haptics are very well done, because they change based on what tools you’re using in each particular minigame. If you’re holding a light saber, pressing R2 has very satisfying sound effect, and the haptics are constantly engaged as long as you’re holding that R2 button down. If you’re holding a couple of pirate swords, you can hit them against each other and it’ll show sparks coming off of them upon impact. Not to mention the satisfying sword clanging sound effects.
What really surprised me was the existence of headset haptics. There is a minigame that asks you to use your head to smash watermelons, and you can really feel the impact. Again, this is surprising to me because they make great use of PS VR2 immersive features when the rest of the gameplay feels lacking. Regardless, this extra effort in using them is a welcome addition.
Unfortunately, aside from the lack of gameplay options, what is actually there is not remotely close to perfect in execution. As a rhythm game that relies on doing things to the beat in order to complete the minigames, it’s certainly lacking in responsiveness, visual, and auditory cues. There were at least two stages where I thought I could no longer progress because I just didn’t understand it. One of them seemed simple enough: use a paddle on each hand to hit coconuts thrown at you into a basket. This stage was in the third planet, but by this time, I felt that I fully understood what the game wanted from me, and it seemed that I just couldn’t get the timing based on where the coconuts were.
The other stage that I nearly hit a roadblock on is where I needed to imitate the way a husky barked using the mic to bark right back. The stage itself was one-of-a-kind and interesting. However, similarly, there was no noticeable visual cue and it was difficult to understand when I was supposed to be barking and for how long. The only way I got through it, was by just barking non-stop. I still do wish there were more stages like this because it utilized the mic, I just think the execution could’ve been better.
I swallowed my pride and barked my heart out.
Lastly, I just want to go back to what I thought this game would be like and was what drove me to want to see this game through, in hopes that my wish would come true: that this would be like Rhythm Heaven or WarioWare. I was hoping, that upon completing all the planets that a new gameplay option would open up that would turn it into a medley of mini-games following one beat or several. Something that would incentivize me to keep playing. Sadly, it did not come true. After five planets, besides going through all of it again to try for three stars, there was nothing else. Rhythm Planet would’ve also thrived on some sort of online multiplayer, similar to what many rhythm games have. The gameplay modes and options are just severely lacking.
Rhythm Planet certainly has pros in certain ways it was executed. However, as great immersion is, it’s secondary to what makes a game more fun, which is where gameplay comes in. They were not able to drive home some gameplay mechanics and are severely lacking in modes to play. What they have in the game is beautiful and mostly fun, but it’s very shallow and is difficult for me to recommend to most consumers in its current state.
The stages are colourful, vibrant, and criss. They look varied between all the different wacky stages.
Slightly varied mini games and controls with some funny ones like making use of the microphone, and controller and headset movement. Didn’t feel responsive overall with visual and auditory queues not always matching up. Slow moving tutorial makes for learning the mini game easier by actually playing.
The game relies heavily on beats for its mini games, but it’s often better to ignore the beats and focus on visual queues instead.
Sound effects are great and varied: from ninja swords, guns, coconut paddles, or your head bashing watermelons
This is fun game that feels like it’s for kids because of how shallow it is, but the gameplay is “difficult” enough that the most they’ll ever get is two-stars.
Lacking in game modes hinders replayability, and besides the few unique mini games, the rest are very same-ish that it doesn’t hold interest for very long.
Final Verdict: 6.5
Rhythm Planet is available now on PS VR2.
Reviewed on PS VR2
A copy of PS VR2 was provided by the publisher.