Genre : Puzzle
Release Date: November 1, 2004
Pre-order 'TECHNIC BEAT': PlayStation 2
Boy, do I suck at this.
Technic Beat is a colorful rhythm game, where dancers run madly around the floor of a uniquely Japanese disco – note that in gaming industry language, “uniquely Japanese” is another way of saying “somebody was very high when they designed this” – trying to reach expanding circles on the floor.
Each circle has a concentric ring that expands towards its center. To score points, you must tap Square when the ring reaches the edges of the circle. Your score’s awarded based on how close the ring was to the circle; a Perfect score indicates that you hit it at just the right moment.
On paper, it sounds like the long-awaited-by-no-one-at-all controller version of Dance Dance Revolution. In practice, it’s an entry in the unspoken, gameplay-bending genre of “acid trip,” where very colorful things unfold against a surrealist backdrop. Something in the Western mind often recoils and babbles incoherently in the face of giant purple things cavorting on a semisolid floor, set to a backbeat of oddly catchy yet foreign pop music.
In my informal test groups, roughly half the ordinary American gamers I exposed to Technic Beat stared blankly before refreshing their drinks. The other half started playing and having a blast.
Technic Beat starts very simply, with single slow-moving circles, and even the least rhythmic player (i.e. me) can do passably well. Once you get into the intermediate levels, where circles chain themselves together or begin to appear rapidly, things get complicated. Each level tends to operate in a set pattern, so dogged repetition will get you through a stage if nothing else, but before that point, you’ll need to process and act upon an amazing and dizzying amount of visual data.
The game works a bit like Rez, in that a successful player’s completion of the rings acts like a part of the soundtrack. Do it quickly enough, and the slow-moving pop songs you’re listening to acquire a rapid-fire percussion backbeat. It doesn’t take much to start varying up the tempo, unconsciously turning the music into something else entirely; quiet slow trip-pop abruptly turns into cymbal-heavy jungle, or trance into… something which is not trance.
Technic Beat offers seven different play styles, from Arcade (a simple progression of levels and complexity) to Puzzle (where you finish levels by completing increasingly intricate circle series). Do well in one of six modes, and you can attempt to challenge your own records and rhythms in the Replay Mode.
This isn’t a game for people with no sense of rhythm, such as myself; it’ll draw you in with decent music and simple tasks, and then attempt to murder you with circles that pop up like sudden explosions. I think I broke my hand.
For the rest of you, especially the people who mark off calendar days until the next Dance Dance Revolution game, Technic Beat is much more than the simple repetition exercise it initially seems to be. It’s great at parties, especially if you and your friends enjoy a good candy rave now and again.