This review is late. So very, very late. You know why?
Because every darn time I sat down to write this thing, I found myself playing just a bit more Muse Dash instead. It’s that addictive.
Muse Dash is a simple side-scroller rhythm game that requires pressing just two buttons, depending on whether the upcoming note is in front of you or above you. It was released by PeroPeroGames for mobile in 2018, and has now been ported to Switch and PC.
You control one of three cute girls who smash through objects thrown at them in time with the beat, punctuated by mini-bosses who you can smack a few times for extra points. Story? There is none. Personally, I had a headcanon involving shipping in a high school band to fight off hordes of cute musical monsters on an endless conveyor belt.
That’s about it. It’s pretty great.
Two buttons; countless hours lost
In rhythm games where notes are spat out faster than I can react to, I go into a trance-like state where I don’t really look at the notes coming up at all. Oblivious to the outside world (and my partner looking on in concern), I play by predicting beats and using colours as triggers.
This technique only really works on well-made rhythm games with accurate note placement and clever use of colour. Muse Dash gets all this right.
Muse Dash’s simplicity is genius in that it’s incredibly accessible for newcomers, while the scaling optional difficulty can change the game from a leisurely jam to a sweaty finger-flying kerfuffle(™).
There is also some minimal strategy involved, if that’s what you’re into. Different outfits provide different benefits, which in turn can be paired with small sprites with various bonuses. There’s even an challenge-outfit where you lose health continually through the song. If you’ve made it to the end of a song in this mode, I don’t believe you.
The Muse Dash base game offers around unlockable forty songs, with a range of vocaloid, Japanese and Chinese Pop, dubstep, electronica, and some eclectic jazz offerings. The DLC “Just As Planned” adds twice that number again, with extra songs added on the regular. While on PC this needs to be bought separately, the Switch port comes with the DLC as part of the base game.
For the most part, songs are unlocked via levelling. Luckily, levelling is quick. I found that I was unlocking a new song every couple of song-playthroughs; inevitably leading to an endless black hole of “just one more song”.
A rhythm game can be the most technically competent game on the market, but if otaku-music ain’t your niche, well, let’s just say Muse Dash isn’t the best use of your time. Conversely, if synth is your thing, you’re going to be in sweet bubblegum heaven.
I can only deal with so much vocaloid myself, but I found more enough jams to put together a pretty substantial favourites list.
Who do you pink you are?
I can’t let this review go without mentioning the skins. Muse Dash falls into that uncomfortable area where the age of the girls isn’t specified, but uh, I’m willing to bet that they’re still packing school lunches.
Optional skins are one thing, but I shouldn’t have to restrict my strategic choices just because I don’t want to stare at a scantily clad minors. And trust me, the screenshot above was one of the tamer choices. Which is a shame, because this is a jolly good rhythm game.
Aside from the NSFW elements, Muse Dash has two visual themes. Pink, and Cute. Purple is permitted to make the odd entrance, but only when Pink says it can.
Admittedly, the visual design can get repetitive. During my time over a pretty large number of songs, I saw maybe five or six different background/enemy sets on repeat. To be fair though, it’s kind of hard to appreciate visuals mid-rhythm-game-trance, so this didn’t bother me as much as I thought it might.
Sugar, spice and everything nice
The best way to describe this game is Taiko: Drum Master merged with Jetpack Joyride side-scrolling, but not so unlike Professor Utonium accidentally adding Chemical X to create the Powerpuff Girls, PeroPeroGames slipped in three buckets of bubblegum pink.
Muse Dash was already pretty popular its mobile form, and it’s easy to see that this solid PC and Switch release will only increase its popularity. It’s just a shame it had to make me feel a bit uncomfortable while doing it.