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DEEMO -Reborn-

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
Genre: Rhythm
Publisher: Unties
Developer: Rayark Inc.
Release Date: Nov. 21, 2019


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PS VR Review - 'Deemo Reborn'

by Cody Medellin on Dec. 31, 2019 @ 1:30 a.m. PST

DEEMO -Reborn- is a music rhythm game that centers around the mystifying relationship between Deemo and a little girl.

The name Deemo might seem familiar if you're a mobile rhythm game fan. The title has been a big hit in the mobile space, with a constant flow of DLC and the hook that you're playing everything on a piano, providing a valid explanation for the constant tapping that you're doing. The success on iOS and Android has made way for ports to other platforms that follow the blueprint faithfully. Deemo Reborn is different and can either be very enjoyable or frustrating, depending on how you choose to play it.

The first thing that makes the game different is in the presence of a narrative. The title starts off with Deemo, a creature dressed in all black and without a face, sitting down and playing in front of a piano when a light appears from above. Soon after, a window opens, and a little girl descends from the sky only to be caught by Deemo. Instead of being afraid of the figure, the little girl seems comforted, and stuck in his home, she is determined to find out how to grow the magic tree she needs to return to her own world.

From here, Deemo Reborn is split into two portions. The rhythm game portion should be familiar to fans of the series or rhythm games in general, as you're watching notes come down the lane and tapping on them as they hit the line. Finish the song, and there's an exploration section where you can roam around Deemo's house solving puzzles so you can have more songs to play.

This is the first point of contention for series fans, as the adventure parts of the game aren't optional. Finish a song at any difficulty, and you'll always be kicked back to Deemo's house, sometimes just long enough to obtain a scroll for a new song before you return to the piano to play it. Other times, you'll spend a good deal of time experimenting with the world to solve simple puzzles to get another song to play. Adventure game fans may be fine with this flow, but those picking up the game strictly as a rhythm title will be annoyed with the constant disruptions.

The other element that fans will dislike is the amount of songs in the game. Having close to 80 songs sounds fine for a typical rhythm title, but it's disappointing when you compare it to the hundreds of songs on the mobile title and other console versions. The tracks featured here are still original creations and are rather beautiful piano melodies with multiple languages used for the lyrics. There's no doubt that a number of people will blame the reduced track list on the adventure aspect of the title.

If you can handle Deemo Reborn being more of an adventure game than a rhythm title, then you'll have to wrestle with the different control schemes that determine what kind of experience you'll end up with. Going with a standard controller, the exploration sequences are rather standard in execution, the control scheme is familiar, and the camera uses the classic third-person perspective. Going into the rhythm section, you'll have three difficulty levels to choose from, but no matter which one you choose, you'll have six buttons to hit notes: Left, Up, and Right on the d-pad and Square, Triangle, and Circle for the face buttons. Sliding notes are handled by flicking any analog stick.

For some reason, playing the game this way is more difficult than expected. It may be because the songs, while lively, don't have the toe-tapping quality that most songs in the rhythm genre do. It might be due to the number of buttons used and the fact that the only guide for the buttons is at the bottom of the screen instead of the notes themselves, so you have less time to mentally prepare for what needs to be hit. Even at the lowest difficulty, it takes much longer to catch on to what you need, so there's some real effort expended in getting into the flow of the game. Perhaps longtime players of DJMAX will be able to jump into this faster, but if you're more of a Taiko no Tatsujin or Hatsune Miku fan, prepare to struggle early on.

If you're playing this on with the PSVR headset, then the experience is very different even though the content is the same. The exploration is handled in a point-and-click manner, where you'll point to where to go and the little girl will go there on command or automatically interact with the specific objects you've indicated. The camera angles are fixed instead of being constantly behind the girl, so while there's no chance of motion sickness, it means that you need to locate the various cameras in the room if you want to get more than one view. For the rhythm sections, button presses make way for actual movement, as you have to use your Move controller to strike down on the notes or strike down and swipe for the yellow continuous notes. Interestingly, there's no normal difficulty here, but even on hard, this is a more intuitive way to hit everything in rhythm.

There's no doubt that using the PSVR to play the game leads to a much more enjoyable experience. However, it could be better, as hitting the notes lacks any sort of tactile feedback. This is especially true since you aren't going to do a full-on swing like you are in Beat Saber, so having another cue to let you know you hit the beat successfully would add to the immersion that VR promises.

Your enjoyment of Deemo Reborn is going to depend on how you choose to play it and what sections you're focusing on. Pure rhythm game fans will lament the expanded focus on the adventure game, while adventure game fans will find the puzzles to be too easy. Those playing in VR will be fine with both the adventure and rhythm sections, even with a lack of tactile feedback, while controller fans will feel comfortable with the adventure game but loathe the rhythm game. The game remains decent enough to recommend to rhythm-loving VR players who want something more than Beat Saber, but there are enough caveats to make this a cautious recommendation.

Score: 6.5/10

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