Old School Musical Review – Old School Fun
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch
Developer: La Moutarde
Release: 13th September 2018
I love rhythm games in every format. At this year´s Gamescom one title, in particular, caught my interest: Old School Musical or short OSM. Promising an easy, yet challenging rhythm game experience mixed with tons of retro references, weird humour and two blocky, white protagonists. Naturally, I had to check this little indie game out and was surely not disappointed.
The brothers Tib and Gib live “happily” with their mother. Well, if you would call daily abuse, training and fighting as happy. Never learned anything except fear from their mother, they thought they would never experience a different life. However, one day their mother vanishes, leaving only a strange device to teleport between worlds, a note and a world slowly eaten away by glitches. So the two brothers set out to find out what´s going on.
Naturally, as the name Old School Musical suggests, their journey quickly becomes one through every iconic retro classic you could think of, thanks to their world-shifting device. I mean, it´s not a coincidence Tib and Gib live in a world that looks like Pokemon, after all, there´s even Mega Man or Metal Slug. All those worlds are infused with the typical self-aware humour known from many indie games, which works more or less. There are some jokes either completely unfunny or annoying but combined with the super-simple, cliché story, most of them are actually fun to read. Especially since no dialogue takes longer than 10-20 lines, I never had a big problem with them, rather enjoyed them!
Yet, none of those worlds have an impact on the general gameplay, after all, it´s a rhythm game. Instead of playing through all these different genres, the game relies on a pretty simple system, where the four buttons X, Y, B and A are used to hit the notes, similar to other simple indies. Additionally, ZR and ZL are used as well in occasional sections to bring a bit of diversity. It´s not complicated nor new but still works like a charm. Especially due to the quite forgiving timing, which doesn´t punish closely missed timing, and light difficulty, it´s a perfect fit for beginners as well.
Generally speaking, the difficulty spike is somewhat of a mixed bag here, since the early half was incredibly easy on normal for me, while the last half spiked often. There were some quite hard ones, followed up by way easier ones and so on. The final stage wasn´t even the hardest in my eyes. Switching the difficulty level to Difficult changes the whole thing to a constantly challenging experience without much of a curve. Considering there´s a quite huge “side game” unlocked after completing the main story, where Old School Musical truly unfolds its whole set of challenges, the campaign can´t really be seen as the complete experience anyway.
What hooked me about the game the most though, isn´t the well-working but standardized gameplay. Most and foremost, I loved the visualization of the “songs” and failures. As already said, the whole game Tib and Gib travel through different retro-themed worlds and go along with their different gameplay. Their adventures aren´t controllable but serve as the visual background for each level, providing 3-5 minutes long of individual, not-repeated footage of beautiful pixel art. Most missed button presses are visualized by failed fights and alike, providing a really unique feel to the whole game. When Tib sneaks through a level and kills one guard every button, it just feels great and offers a far more engaging, unique background than most other rhythm games.
Particularly enjoyable when it features such a great pixel art style. Old School Musical is full of details, able to reproduce many of these iconic styles in an impressive manner. Given, Metal Slug´s world can´t compare to the sprite-porn the original series was but comes awfully close at times. Overall, it´s a really diverse looking game, able to adapt itself to many styles. Only its individual style gets somehow lost since nothing looks super unique, even Tib and Gib are as boring as the other original designs. Yet, maybe that was the point? Who knows. Last but not least, let´s also not forget the soundtrack is great, it´s a rhythm game after all. Featuring custom-tailored 8-bit tracks, which are synchronized with the buttons almost perfectly.
Old School Musical is just a really fun rhythm game. While its humour can be somewhat of a hit and miss from time to time, the mix of retro classics and Tib and Gib´s hilarious designs always got a chuckle out of me, I mean the Game Over screen is a dancing half-naked, pixelated man! Mix that with a simple but effective music gameplay and you´re almost guaranteed to have a great time.
[A Review Code was provided by Playdius]