Game Reviews

Groove Coaster

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| Groove Coaster
Groove Coaster
| Groove Coaster

The latest title from Space Invaders Infinity Gene director Reisuke Ishida is a hypnotic, one-of-a-kind iOS experience, a music game infused with the spirit of a twitch shooter.

That, perhaps, shouldn’t come as a surprise given its heritage, but Groove Coaster arguably works better as a test of memory and reactions than of rhythm.

Line dancing

The touch points you’re required to tap restlessly drift between layers of the track, with melodic sequences followed by stretches of purely percussive cues. Slower songs tend to see you follow gentle curves while faster tracks whip round chicanes and speed through sharp, jagged corners.

Yet while these coasters your avatar rides purportedly represent the track itself, occasionally there’s a burst of acceleration or a sudden series of jolts that doesn’t really match the beat, seemingly to artificially enhance the difficulty at the expense of a consistent flow.

Elsewhere, the camera swirls around so that sometimes you’re heading up, sometimes down, then into the screen, then out. It’s disorientating - perhaps deliberately so at times - yet the wire-frame shapes, pyrotechnic effects, and pulses of glowing colour are a real treat for the eyes.

Focus test

Such visual splendour, coupled with the need to concentrate on the track ahead, means you’re often afraid to blink. If rhythm games are all about responding to aural prompts, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Yet if the visuals are too obfuscatory for Groove Coaster to work as a pure rhythm-action game, once you learn to embrace such idiosyncrasies, the frustrations just melt away.

The game’s exceptional soundtrack is undoubtedly a crucial factor in this, with its 16 songs spanning multiple genres while retaining a consistent tone. Tracks range from down-tempo hip-hop to juddering techno beats, while spiky guitar riffs follow melodic J-Pop. Somehow it all seems to fit.

Slide away

Even with such a brilliant audiovisual treatment, the game would get a little boring if all you did was tap, so certain beats require you to swipe in the appropriate direction, while you’ll need to hold sustained notes for their duration.

Occasionally you’ll need to tap repeatedly for the length of a snaking line, while other extended sections ask you to rapidly ‘scratch’ left and right. These variations feel mostly unforced, a natural way to augment the song.

Multiple difficulty levels increase the replay value, as does an RPG-style levelling system, with good performances unlocking new avatars or skins.

The former have a variety of results, increasing the likelihood of a ‘good’ rating for poorly-timed taps or decreasing the end target to pass a stage, for example. Skins, meanwhile, provide new visual effects during your performances.

For sale: fresh beat

An in-game shop allows you to purchase two additional songs, and strugglers can buy items to make the game easier.

Disappointingly, there’s but a single leaderboard displaying your total score rather than individual stage tallies, though the 54 achievements will keep most busy for quite some time.

The kind of game that makes you feel cooler when you're playing it, Groove Coaster might not be the rhythm-action masterpiece you were hoping for, but it is, in its own unique way, one of the most exciting and rewarding iOS games around.

Groove Coaster

Gorgeous, challenging and thrillingly different, Groove Coaster is a treat for the eyes, the ears, and the soul