Recently, we’ve seen a number of unexpected trends. A few years ago everyone wanted a battle royale, we’re still seeing countless roguelike titles release, with rhythm games starting to come into their own. The latest title to explore the genre is Rhythm Sprout, which tries to replace singing/dancing, with level progression/combat. It sounds interesting on paper, but given the difficulties associated with the genre, is it the next big thing, or is the adventure out of tune?
Rhythm Sprout has an incredibly straightforward story. The princess is missing, so the king sends you to get her. There is a little more to the story, a few slight twists, though most of the adventure falls on character interactions. It’s similar to how Neptunia does things, and to be perfectly honest, it works fairly well.
I Probably Did
Even if the story is just kind of there, it’s the surreal, and random humor that sells the experience. Having a boss that is almost uncomfortably into Gilmore Girls, a choice that hits close to home given my girlfriend is a huge fan as well, is just random enough to be amusing. Part of what makes this work so well is commitment to the bit. The boss isn’t just into Gilmore Girls, it’s a part of his identity, so much so it’s literally referenced in his trophy/achievement. This is just one of several jokes that stand out in this adventure. And, as a result, it’s an absolute delight to see how characters react to various situations.
Despite crafting a surprisingly amusing narrative, gameplay is in a weird spot. Controls are incredibly simple. Red bars use any button on the right side, yellow are any input on the left side, with blue being triggers. While this sounds incredibly easy, songs have a sharp learning curve. It starts around level seven, with it spiking a couple times throughout.
Don’t Make a Mistake
Thankfully, Rhythm Sprout tries to mitigate this a number of ways. For starters, score and combos are completely unrelated. In fact, the only input that actually matters are blue bars. These indicate a dodge, which are the only way to actually lose a stage. You can honestly complete a stage by pushing inputs at complete random, provided you dodge enough times. To further this, there is also a beginner mode that makes certain metrics inaccessible, in exchange for a higher margin of error. It’s great if you get stuck, as I think certain levels are harder than others.
Regardless of difficulty, Rhythm Sprout features enjoyable beats. Almost every track is entirely instrumental, taking inspiration from a wide variety of genres. This gives everyone at least something to pick from, along with different struggles to overcome. Players can further improve the experience with a wide array of unlockable cosmetics, and modifiers like turbo, mirror, and randomizer.
While it Rhythm Sprout does a lot of things right, it has several notable shortcomings. One of the biggest is the experience is pretty short. With only 30, though it’s basically 29, stages to complete, a full run can be accomplished in roughly two hours. Most replay value will hinge on collecting stars, which can be a short, or long battle depending on your skill.
As previously mentioned, score and combo are calculated separately, resulting in every stage having a target for both. Unlike most rhythm games, I believe only one stage requires a perfect combo. The rest require some amount, with that ranging anywhere from 60 to 95 percent . Unsurprisingly, score is the less forgiving of the two.
Since combo has no impact on score, hitting your target is more about proficiency. Simply put, these expectations can be pretty brutal. For example, let’s examine the first boss.
To hit the combo target you only need hit 66 percent of the inputs in a row. This is extremely doable, and honestly not much of a challenge. Since the score target requires approximately 96 percent of the max possible points, you need at most 154 of the 162 scored inputs to be absolutely perfect. The highest margin of error is 149 perfect inputs, and 13 just under that. Needless to say, this is an insane difference in expectations. Unfortunately, this is not the worst example either.
I would consider the optional final boss to be the most demanding stage in the game. It requires a combo of 87 percent, which translates to 753 inputs. This is pretty difficult, though score is on another level. To achieve the required score, you need 96 percent of the possible points, which means the absolute minimum is 717 perfect inputs. You can get it down to 693 if every other input is the next level under, but it’s a massive ask.
In addition to having steep expectations, score also comes with a variety of punishments. Every needless input is a 50 point deduction. Hit too early, often, or late, and you’ll lose progress. There are also punishment inputs that decrease your points as well. This can make it extremely hard to unlock everything, much less get to the point where you’re trying to improve your score out of enjoyment.
Rhythm Sprout Review Verdict
I don’t think Rhythm Sprout is a bad game, it’s just in a really unfortunate place. The story is funny enough to make the initial run enjoyable, though it can be tedious redoing the same exchange three or four times to explore every dialogue option. Gameplay is also fun, it just has a high learning curve, and brutal post game. With scores requiring pretty close to the max possible, there really isn’t much room for improvement. This makes earning a higher score, or improving your runs incredibly difficult, which is unfortunate to say the least. For these reasons I would only recommend Rhythm Sprout if you’re a fan of the genre, or want to chase perfection.
[Editor’s Note: Rhythm Sprout was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]