Mevo & The Grooveriders (PC) review
"Mevo & The Grooveriders is a gloriously silly, ridiculously charming little game, as accessible as it is beautiful, and for the ludicrously small admission fee of £5.99 (Steam still refuses to show international prices), it's hard to imagine anyone being disappointed. But the lack of precision is problematic, and does hold Mevo back from the highest accolades. With a bit more polish, and with the addition of a solid community hub, this promising debut from Red Rocket Games could deliver something very jazzy indeed."
This is an extremely hesitant review.
It's hesitant because... well. When talking about Mevo & the Grooveriders, it's best to think in terms of Guitar Hero meets Little Big Planet. The Guitar Hero bit doesn't quite work, and the key aspect of Little Big Planet - its online community hub functionality - isn't up and running yet for Mevo. It's promised - some time in April, we're told - but there's very little information on what will be involved. If it goes even half as far as Media Molecule's ingenuity, it could prove to be very interesting.
For now, though, all that's here is the straight-forward, single-player game. It's a side-scrolling music title, like Guitar Hero viewed from 'round the side, in which you help a cute little alien reunite his funk band in order to save the world from the evils of silence. This could be the finest setup to any game, ever. Mevo & the Grooveriders is filled with this sort of insane charm, one which flows from the Sackboy-esque characters, through to the heavily thematic and beautifully drawn environments, reminiscent of World of Goo's seasonal shifting. I'd have liked to see a fleshier story play out in between each stage - as it is, it's usually just something along the lines of "hey, look! Let's see what's over there!" - but what's here is delicious and lovely.
The basis of each stage is simple. Left shift equates to a yellow arrow, pointing to the left. Right shift equates to a blue arrow, pointing to - you guessed it - the right. As the eponymous Mevo automatically dances his way across the area, you encounter these arrows, theoretically in time with the music, and hit the corresponding button at the right moment.
Theoretically is the key word. It's irritatingly imprecise. Please trust me when I say I have a keen ear for rhythm, and that it's the tinest, most infintessimaly small bit off. A lot of its target market isn't going to notice, but when you know you hit that arrow perfectly, yet the game only grades your strike as "good," it gets a little frustrating. More troubling is the tendency for sounds to trigger slightly late, meaning the whole melody - essentially what you're button-mashing your way through - can materialise out of time, even when the game is grading you "perfect" for each note. It's a terrible distraction, and one that frequently puts you off as you near the next beat.
But perhaps the most difficult thing to get used to is the side-scrolling plane. Where most of Mevo's competitors opt for a head-on viewpoint, with icons flying on-screen from ahead allowing you to select the corresponding button on the same side, Mevo forces you to think more carefully about what you're pressing. Initially, I found myself instinctively pressing right shift every time, as my character bounced along in that direction. With often only a split second to think, this can become astonishingly tricky. It's not necessarily a bad thing; it just tests your reflexes something rotten, in a manner far beyond any similar game I've played.
As you hop, skip and jump your way through each level, you earn scores and "funk" points, which are used to unlock later stages, and also customise your character. Some of the customisation is purely cosmetic - and lovely and cutesy it is, too - while other features aid your gameplay. Certain dances double up as point-multipliers, while some outfits grant you access to power-ups. I'm hoping to see some elements of this seep over into the online component, but for now it acts as a great way to improve longevity, as you replay stages time and time again to unlock the elusive diamond awards.
It seems like a strange decision to release a game without what looks like a key feature of the experience, one that's heavily referenced in the marketing blurb. Whether it amounts to anything exciting remains to be seen, and we'll return to Mevo at a later date if "MevoWorld" drastically alters our impressions. Without it, Mevo & The Grooveriders is still a gloriously silly, ridiculously charming little game, as accessible as it is beautiful, and for the ludicrously small admission fee of £5.99 (Steam still refuses to show international prices), it's hard to imagine anyone being disappointed. But the lack of precision is problematic, and does hold Mevo back from the highest accolades. With a bit more polish, and with the addition of a solid community hub, this promising debut from Red Rocket Games could deliver something very jazzy indeed.
Freelance review by Lewis Denby (March 31, 2009)
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