Hands-On Preview: Old School Musical

Rhythm gaming meets retro goodness!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 09/04/2018 12:15 Comment on this     ShareThis

My latest developer appointment took me to the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco, which is practically kitty-corner from the Moscone Center. The suite where Playdius was showing off its wares was bright, spacious, and plush, and I found myself very excited to see what they had to offer. My guide through their software selection was Guillaume Jamet, Vice President of Communications & Marketing, and he was very eager to get me started playing.

There were multiple titles that I played, but I want to focus on the one that really caught my eye, which was Old School Musical. OSM is a rhythm game, but it’s an atypical one. For starters, the music is chiptune-focused, with the team at La Moutarde even going so far as to utilize old game systems to partially compose the songs. The reason for this is that OSM is meant to harken back to old-school (as the name states) video games.

The story focuses on two characters named Tib and Rob, who have been trained to be video game heroes. When their game world is invaded and corrupted by bugs, it’s their job to clean them out and also rescue their missing mother from harm. As one of the lead designers of the game noted during my play session, the narrative is intentionally bombastic in order to give the design team more freedom in crafting an oddball, offbeat experience for each stage.

Bombastic and over-the-top is exactly the vibe I got while playing OSM. There are over 20 levels to play through, each with a different song and visual aesthetic. Since the game is set within video game worlds, each level is able to bounce from one familiar setting to another. One of my favorite levels was clearly inspired by Outrun, mixed with a little Road Rash for good measure. Another featured a PlayStation-era RPG vibe with evil chickens. The variety is solid and had me eager to see every level. Check out the galleries in the post to sample some of them!

The gameplay won’t be unfamiliar to those who have played rhythm games in the past. The inputs can be made via taps of either the directional buttons on the left Joy-Con or the face buttons on the right Joy-Con, and the shoulder or trigger buttons. Picking up the control scheme was instantaneous. The center of the playing field is where all of the “notes” march towards, coming in from the top, bottom, left, and right of the screen. The only other notes are the ones assigned to the shoulder buttons, which scroll exclusively from top to bottom. There are only so many ways to reinvent scrolling notes, but La Moutarde has done a sublime job with their take.

Again, every level doesn’t just have a different chiptune, but also different background elements that progress the story along. In the RPG level I mentioned above, pressing the buttons to the beat initiated attacks towards the evil chickens. In the Outrun level, successfully playing along to the rhythm kept the car driving and punches flying through the windows to hit incoming bikers. The action was smooth and buttery and the visuals a delight. It’s worth noting, though, that OSM is tough. The difficulty can be scaled back, but for anyone looking to be challenged, this could very well be a game for you.

It doesn’t stop with the single-player campaign, however. There’s also multiplayer and two-player co-op to mess around with. In co-op, OSM tracks the inputs of both players over the course of a level. Once completed, the computer averages the scores of both. So, if one person isn’t able to keep up, it’ll drag the other down and it’s game over. There’s a simultaneous desire to both be accurate and get a better score than the person you’re playing with, which added some extra fun to the mode. I’d expect that with Switch’s Joy-Cons, co-op and multiplayer will become a must-play in OSM on the console.

There’s a September 13 release date for OSM and I’m really excited for Playdius as we approach it, because this is a very, very fun game. Its controls are simple, yet engaging, with a nice spin on the typical rhythm game mechanics. Throw in a mesmerizing soundtrack and quirky story mode, and OSM might well cultivate a very devout following on Switch.

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