Diaphanous flowers in electric colors bloom and shimmer as freaky characters slide, spin and waddle across the dance floor in time with the ever-present beat. Little eruptions of colored notes, ripple effects and plenty of other psychedelic eye candy appear in beautiful patterns around them as they go through their intricate dances. The scene is fantastically mesmerizing, a kaleidoscopic vision of hallucinogenic bliss.
Normally the only way you can get effects like this is to take a handful of illicit, psychoactive chemicals at a rave. Luckily, the wonderful possibilities of the video game medium have made it possible to realize mind melting effects like these without the actual mind melting. Enter the reality of Technic Beat, the world’s first candy-kid rave simulator.
Technic Beat is an unusual game even in the relatively oddball realm of rhythm games. Dance Dance Revolution and Parappa are plenty strange in their own ways, but Technic Beat is in a world of its own. The characters range from bizarre to outlandishly bizarre and are clearly Japanese to the limit. A platypus with a snorkel? A wind-up robot? A weird little girl with a knitted body stocking that pulses? There are six characters and they are all just as weird in their own way. The game is played on a variety of wacky stages including over a child’s record player, a wall of video screens and a wacky deep sea setting.
The object of the game is to trigger musical phrases in time with a backing track to form songs. Circles appear at various points on the floor representing various musical phrases. Within those circles smaller circles appear, expanding outward until they touch the edge of the original circle. The player moves their character into the circle, hitting the square button as close to the time that the inner and outer circles meet receiving a rating from “Bad” to “Perfect.” That makes a “Tension Meter” go up or down. Reach a specified point on the meter and keep it there to the end of the song and win. Drop below a certain point and it’s game over.
The basic techniques are simple enough to master but there’s plenty of advanced strategy and technique, which gives the game considerable depth. It’s worth completing the tutorial to get a grip on the basic techniques and some of the more esoteric possibilities. Besides the basic arcade mode there are plenty of other game types including two-player co-op and competitive matches and the ability to record your performances to listen to and watch later. If the game tickles your fancy you’ll find plenty here to keep you busy for a while.
In a rhythm game, sound is obviously a key aspect. If you don’t like the music, you will probably have a hard time enjoying the game. Technic Beat offers a lot of music, but it all falls into a strange little category that could be described as nutty Japanese techno. A number of the songs are remixes of video game themes, both famous (Dig Dug, Xevious) and obscure (plenty of Japan only arcade games). Some of the songs I found tremendously annoying, others I ended up liking quite a lot, enough to send me scurrying to my file sharing service to download them for my collection.
The graphics aren’t really impressive from a technical standpoint. There’s no fancy bump-mapping or NURBS or muscular polygon pushing going on here. What we have is lots of bright colors, abundant particle effects and a cutesy, warped design sense. The result is a package that is simple, appealing and totally mind bending.
If you’re looking for something different than the normal alien and terrorist shooting galleries, or just want to relive your acid soaked raver days, this is just what the doctor ordered. It’s a unique game with a charmingly warped take on the rhythm genre and it’s one of those crossover games that the normally videogame aversive spouse or girlfriend might enjoy, which is always a plus. Technic Beat is a winner. Pick it up, plug it in and zone out.
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