Review: Old School Musical (Switch)

An instant classic!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 09/27/2018 13:15 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Brilliant presentation that calls back to some of the most legendary games ever made; mix of rhythm gameplay on top of the old-school action taking place in the background is perfectly implemented; killer soundtrack; intuitive controls
Poison Mushroom for...
Hard to tell when you're holding the button down versus just giving it a tap; slightly short

There have been quite a lot of good indie games to come to Switch over the scant two years that the system has been on the market. It’s impossible to list them all. It’s also really hard to try and rank them. That said, if I had my own top five list of indie games on Switch, Old School Musical would easily be in the top three. Top. Three. No hyperbole. While I was impressed by the preview I got of the game, the final build is simply one of the most entertaining and creative experiences on the system.

It might not seem like it, but Old School Musical’s name perfectly encapsulates what the game is about. It’s an old school video game… combined with a musical! Okay, there’s a little more to it than that. The “old school” part relates to the different, classic video games that freshman developer La Moutarde used as inspiration for each of its 20 levels. Half the fun here is in trying to figure out which titles were used. I spotted a ton of different references to Metal Gear, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mega Man, The Last of Us, Gradius, Metal Slug, OutRun, and much, much more.

The gameplay, however, is not related to the games from which Old School Musical draws from. Instead, the “musical” portion of the experience is rhythm-based. Like Guitar Hero or Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, notes scroll across the screen and must be tapped in time with the music. Matching notes progress the action in the background, so although it’s not possible to directly swing swords, drive cars, or partake in any of the other various pieces of action taking place, successfully playing along to the soundtrack ensures victory.

Old School Musical’s story revolves around brothers Tib and Rob, two stark white, cube-like beings who are tormented by an overbearing, militaristic mother. The mother has tortured Tib and Rob since they were born, forcing them to engage in relentless training sessions for an unknown reason. The narrative picks up with the brothers discovering their mother has gone missing and the world around them suddenly “glitching” in and out of existence. They embark on a journey to rescue her, but become embroiled in something much bigger than the duo ever dreamed.

The writing here is brilliant. It deftly bounces between hilarity and drama, making allusions to the retro classics playing in the background and also selling the points in the narrative where things get serious. Tib and Rob (no relation to myself) are awesome. Their interplay is fantastic, truly conveying the sense that they’re brothers. It’s not often I laugh out loud while playing a game, but Old School Musical had me rolling more than once. Tib and Rob might be my favorite new characters of the year.

In a manner reminiscent of WarioWare, La Moutarde mimics the graphics of the NES games it homages, but also makes them fit within the world of Old School Musical itself. There’s an elegance to Old School Musical‘s graphics, a subtlety with which the design team crafted every level. The stage Major 9, which pulls from Metal Gear, has all the familiar trappings of the NES original, with jeeps and military compounds to sneak around, but there’s more detail to soak in and a grander scale. This is embodied by the enormous computer terminal that springs to life at the end of the level, a sight that would never have been possible to render on an NES. It’s this mixture of modern and retro sensibilities that makes Old School Musical so special.

The only real complaint I have with Old School Musical relates to the game interface. There’s a visual cue that signals when a button has been pressed that looks like a series of dots or lights. Unfortunately, it only goes off at the initial depression of the button. Otherwise, there’s no way of visually knowing that the game is registering that a button is being pressed down for an extended period of time. If the notes perhaps lit up during these periods, or gave off any other form of indication, it would’ve been a big help, as the gameplay becomes very, very fast at times and it’s easy to lose track of the action without giving full, hyper-focused attention to what’s happening on-screen. This issue is diminished somewhat on easier difficulty levels, but it’s a quality of life tweak that I’d love to see patched in at some point.

There’s an unfettered joy to Old School Musical that’s infectious. It’s a brief experience, but what is there is perfectly balanced and fine-tuned. The gameplay is instantly intuitive, with notes scrolling past corresponding to either the directional or face buttons (both can be used at the same time). There’s some ambiguity relating to when a button is depressed for a long time, but beyond that this is one of the richest, most satisfying experiences on the eShop. Before I sign off, considering this is a music game, it might make sense to mention the soundtrack. It’s easily one of the best scores to hit a game in recent months. Every track is catchy, memorable, and complements the action. The only shame is that there isn’t more music to enjoy. Old School Musical‘s laser-like focus on delivering a remix of the classic titles of yore with modern rhythm gameplay is a real delight. Don’t hesitate to add it to your collection.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Log In 0 points Log in or register to grow your Ninja Score while interacting with our site.
Nintendojo's RSS Feeds

All Updates Podcast
News Comments
Like and follow usFacebookTwitter Friend Code Exchange + Game with Us Join the Team!