Just two months removed from release, the Nintendo Switch has already racked up three rhythm games with Voez, Thumper, and Dark Witch Music: Rudymical. But with so much competition, can Rudymical stand out?
Rudymical is not only a spin-off of The Legend of the Dark witch series on the 3DS, it's based on a mini game in The Legend of the Dark Witch 2. The gameplay is best described as a fighting/rhythm game mashup. Two anime-inspired characters stand on opposite sides of a simplistic stage. The character on the right hurls color-coded attacks at the player standing on the left, typically in a repeating pattern (hence the "rhythm“ aspect of the game). Each attack can be volleyed using the corresponding button. For example, red attacks can only be batted away with the B button, while blue attacks require hitting the X button. Slicing, defending, and avoiding attacks slowly whittlesdown the opponents health bar, with matches lasting a few minutes.
There are varying degrees of difficulty to choose from, though I only found the highest difficulty setting, Lunatic, to be challenging. After spending just 30 minutes with the game, I was handily slicing through the easy, medium, and hard modes.I would have much preferred a gradual difficulty ramp that could have added replay value to the game, but my options were limited.
Still, while I was struggling for better scores and cleaner attacks in Lunatic mode, I was having a lot of fun. The bouncing and whirling attacks put me into a rhythm game trance and my thumbs took on a life all their own. When things are moving, there’s a palpable seat-of-your-pants vibe that’s equal parts anxiety inducing and thrilling.
Unfortunately, those feelings didn’t last long, and Iquickly discovered Rudymical's fatal flaw– a lack of depth. There are a few characters to unlock by completing stages with high scores, but individual characters don't change the gameplay in any meaningful ways. I’m sure fans of the Dark Witch series will immediately recognize these characters and have full knowledge of their drives and motivations, but for newcomers, there’s not enough incentive to e them.
Likewise, the gameplay is too simplistic for its own good. Apart from matching colors to attacks, it's a strategy-free experience that isn't mentally challenging in the least, and it's clear the developer leaned too far into the "rhythm" aspect of the games and not far enough into the game’s only unique angle– the "fighting" concept.
I would have liked to see the ability to move around, customize characters, level up, unlock new moves, interact with stages– just something to add a few additional layers to the experience.
The fact is, there are a lot of rhythm games on the market, and the years have lead to a significant amount of formula refinement. It takes a game that's wholly original and almost mechanically perfect to stand out from the crowd, and Rudymical's simple gameplay can't compete. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it can’t even hold itsown against Voez and Thumper on the Switch.
Rudymical is priced just right at $7.99 on the Switch (versus $2.99 on mobile platforms), and I definitely enjoyed my first two hours with the game. It’s a fun palate cleanser to spin up, enjoy, and then get back to Zelda or Mario Kart– just don’t expect to have much lasting fun.