It must be tough to make a truly engaging rhythm game as they’re essentially elaborate versions of Simon. The simplicity of their mechanics hides beneath flashy graphics and scenarios that provide some context, but if none of that does it for you, a game’s only other recourse is to have awesome music. Radiohammer gets it partially right. Its challenging gameplay is delivered through absurd concepts and a polished art style. Unfortunately, the concepts are limited, the challenge becomes beyond punishing, and the music is unmemorable.
You play as three DJs with giant hammers. The first playable DJ is July Ann, who wears a schoolgirl outfit, wields a pink hammer, and has an anthropomorphic rabbit for an agent. Each DJ fights different types of enemies. July Ann has to contend with perverts. Yes, dudes in trench coats continually dash up to her and, should she not smash them away in time, she gets flashed.
Each pervert heralds his coming with a grunt in step with the music. You must, on the next beat, tap the screen to send him flying. Depending on your accuracy, you’re awarded a “Perfect,” “Great,” “Good,” or “Bad.” With the exception of “Bads,” each successful hit adds to a combo tally. Miss and you lose health. You also lose health for needless swings of the hammer to discourage you from just swinging wildly.
Accurate hits and a high combo score net more points and fill a blue bar. Once it’s full, a brief bonus period is triggered in which you’re awarded “Perfects” so long as your hits connect. Power-ups are available in the form of presents that appear just behind July Ann in the tiny interims between pervert waves. You tap anywhere to swing your hammer, but must tap specifically on a present to collect it. Presents are quickly yanked away and tapping a moment too late means you’ll instead attack, dropping your health and resetting the combo counter. Further challenge is added by green “trap” presents that give negative effects if accidentally collected.
The mechanics are tight and solid. The fast pace will be an immediate killer for the non-musically-inclined, but rhythm game aficionados will probably admire the high difficulty. It’s gameplay that seems impossible, but you’ll eventually adapt by recognizing the slightly different noises enemies make (e.g., some pervs come in twos, grunting twice in succession at a higher pitch).
It’s the tedium that might make you quit. In story mode, all three DJs get 14 episodes and a boss. The DJs are confined to one environment, one kind of enemy (with small variations), and their own set of songs. However, you must complete all stages before unlocking the next DJ, so you’re stuck in an amusement park fighting perverts with July Ann for 15 stages straight before the scenery changes. There are other unlockable modes that let you tackle your track of choice or play through them randomly, but there’s little incentive to play these when story mode is already a slog.
Plus, the songs are engaging enough while playing, but after quitting I couldn’t remember a single one. July Ann’s songs all sound pretty gentle. The funk picks up a bit with the second DJ, DJ Wayde, but the tracks are still so samey that I frequently couldn’t tell whether I was hearing a new song or one I’d played before.
On the bright side is Radiohammer’s stylish, polished presentation. The sound effects are great. Your hammer produces a much more satisfying smash for a “Perfect” hit versus the lame tininess of a “Bad.” Each DJ also has his/her own enthusiastically quipping voice actor. The graphics are truly impressive, too. Animations are incredibly detailed and there are lots of little touches, like how “Perfects” send out a flurry of stars or the way your animal agent hops up in shock when you mess up your combo. There’s fun animated stuff going on in the backgrounds as well, like perverts running about and UFOs lasering the earth.
Developer Vinyl Lab pulled out all the stops for the bosses, which are unique treats unto themselves. Sadly, they’re so fancy they caused slowdown for my Galaxy Nexus—a death sentence for a rhythm game. The bosses are intensely difficult; coupled with the slowdown, it’s it was borderline impossible for me to finish DJ Wayde’s levels. A quality slider would be welcome.
Vinyl Lab (a Korean team) also skimped on translation. There’s a story told through occasional text bubbles, but it’s silly nonsense made sillier by broken English. The translation issues hardly ruin the gameplay though. It’s even a little charming how the game instructs you to “Tab anywhere!” and loading screens serve up fun facts like “July Ann does not have a boyfriend” or the tragic “Vinyl Lab is in need of lady staffs.”
Radiohammer is for hardcore rhythm game fans only as it’s likely to be too hard for everyone else. Furthermore, the only type of people who might tolerate such repetitious gameplay and forgettable music are those who have mastered Rhythm Heaven and need another fix. Also, though the game looks great, be sure your device can handle it. Otherwise, you’re funked.
Yes and no.
A graphically impressive rhythm game with tight gameplay mechanics that unfortunately suffers from tediously repetitious levels and unremarkable music. Also, if your phone’s specs aren’t up to snuff, it’s pretty much game over.