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July 2019

Groove Coaster

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Rhythm
Publisher: Degica Games
Developer: Taito Corporation
Release Date: July 17, 2018


PC Review - 'Groove Coaster'

by Cody Medellin on Jan. 7, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Riding the rhythmic rails of success, Groove Coaster arrives on the PC! Are you ready to ride a roller coaster of sound and light through a universe of music?

Much like its courses, Groove Coaster's journey to Steam has been a long and winding road. It began as a mobile title in 2011 with an update a year later to take it from a paid game to a free-to-play title. It was ported to the arcade in 2013, with the biggest change being a shift from a touch-screen-based title to one with physical controls. Except for a return to the mobile space a few years later, Groove Coaster has stuck with being an arcade title, and this is where the Steam version draws its inspiration.

If you're familiar with just about any rhythm game, then you already know what to expect from Groove Coaster. Your cursor travels over a line, and once the cursor meets up with a note, you hit a button to strike the note to make the song sound more complete. Hitting a note comes through in several different ways. Aside from the button tap, you have some notes that require rapid tapping or simply holding down the button for the length of the note. Other notes require flicking the stick left or right for scratching and in the given direction for notes that require it. There are also a few notes that require a split-style flick or hold, which is where the dual-stick setup comes in.

With no touch-screen support in this version, Groove Coaster has a few other control options for PC players. By default, you can use your keyboard in a dual-WASD style to emulate the two sticks in the arcade. In lieu of a button on each stick, you can hit any directional key in that setup to achieve the same effect. For those wanting to play on the TV, the game supports the traditional dual analog controllers with the same functionality as the keyboard. The support, however, is done in a roundabout way, as you have to turn on the support in Steam Big Picture mode for that particular controller, so Taito can apply the controls via that mapping software. Surprisingly, the most authentic experience comes from the Steam Controller itself, where the dual track pads can substitute for the analog sticks rather well, and you have the option of tapping on the pads to register a hit.

Aside from the different note-hitting techniques, the game's signature element is the track itself. Instead of going in a straight line, you're going to experience lines that take sharp turns and go in multiple directions. It's absolutely normal to have tracks that go in the four cardinal directions as well as diagonally. There are even tracks that curve around the level and without too much of a read-ahead to see where the track goes, the game adheres to the theme of being a rhythm-focused roller coaster.

Aside from the track design, there are other elements that contribute to Groove Coaster being more of an experience rather than a traditional game. The focus on electronic music with a few video game melodies makes for a unique experience that doesn't jar players with something that feels out of place should they choose to play with the 10-song non-stop mode. Some of the graphical background elements start to distract the player or even lightly go over the track. It would be an annoyance in other rhythm games, but somehow, it feels perfectly fine here, especially since there is no way the song stops midway if you keep missing notes.

With that said, for those who are trying to be competitive or want to test themselves, this is where things begin to fall apart in Groove Coaster. Each song you play only lets you access the easiest difficulty level, so all you deal with are basic taps, sustained notes, and rapid tapping. Beat that song, and you gain access to the normal level, which adds scratches and directional flicks. Beat that difficulty, and you open up more moves in the hard and expert levels. This may be fine if you're just learning the game, but for experts, this is tedious. This is especially true when you realize that this needs to be done for every song you play, so by the time you unlock the highest difficulty, there's a good chance you're rather sick of the tune — at least until the next time you play the game.

The game also is at a disadvantage when it comes to the overall track list. To be fair, there are 48 songs in the game, with 10 of them debuting here instead of on the mobile release. There's also the promise of monthly releases of new songs. So far, however, the mobile game and all of its DLC have three times as many tracks as the PC release, so it'll take a very long time for parity to be reached.

The graphics are mostly beautiful. Thanks to the title's use of particles and abstract shapes with a multitude of colors, the backdrops are essentially a rhythmic kaleidoscope, with recognizable things flying around on occasion. At times, it can look like a psychedelic screensaver, and as stated earlier, the distracting elements aren't so bad. The odd aspect ratios for the gameplay field mean that you really need to rotate that monitor if you want to get a more authentic arcade experience. Also, the lack of graphical options means that you'll have to deal with some noticeable screen-tearing throughout each run.

Regardless of platform, Groove Coaster is an interesting rhythm game. Although it has leaderboards to please the more competitive types, the game is really about experiencing the songs as a visual ride. Correct inputs act as the mechanism to make the ride more audibly pleasant. The controls work well enough, but the amount of songs available is dwarfed by those in the mobile release. The need to replay all of the songs on all of the difficulty levels can feel tedious. The PC version may not be the best one, but it's still a good port of a fresh rhythm title.

Score: 7.0/10

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