The rhythm/music game genre has seen better days. It used to be that the world couldn’t get enough Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Now, piles of used “instruments” clutter the racks of GameStop stores across the country, and their DLC tracks occupy the “deals” list in online stores. The rhythm genre may be a shadow of its former self, but Double Fine Productions knows there is still fun to had. Dropchord is a “music-driven score challenge game” that combines a rock solid soundtrack and precise controls to create a challenging and entertaining experience.
Dropchord begins when you place two fingers on each side of the glowing circle that is your play area. A line then connects your two fingers, and you must quickly and accurately maneuver the line away from obstacles that will drain your health if you hit them. Dropchord is about nailing that uber score, so if you grab the nodes that appear without getting hurt, you grow your score multiplier and get access to trippy bonus stages.
It seems simple at first but slowly rolls out new maneuvers and challenges that are tough to master. After each section, you’re given your score, rating, and a health boost based on your performance. There is leaderboard support in Dropchord, so you can shame your friends when you crush their scores.
There are two game modes, standard and Full Mix. The standard play mode takes you through the mix starting with the easy early levels and ramps up the difficulty as you go. This is a good place to start, as it gives you instructions on how to play. The “Full Mix” mode throws you into a random mix of songs and challenges and should be played only after you understand the mechanics.
The visuals are superb and change based on the track and challenge level. They are just as much a part of the gameplay, as it becomes increasingly more difficult to discern the correct path to draw the line. It can be distracting in the tougher levels, but that’s part of the challenge.
While the gameplay is habit-forming and intense, the real superstar here is the soundtrack. The tracks flow seamlessly together as you play and still manage to offer up the variety of soundscapes such as techno, dubstep, house, and a tribal-esque track from Grammy nominated “Journey” (PS3) composer Austin Wintory. The quality of the music draws you back into the mix and invokes that “just one more game” itch. I recommend playing Dropchord with the best pair of headphones you can find. The soundtrack is up for sale online, and is available on iTunes.