Another fantasy world is in trouble and as usual it can only be saved by a group of adventurers comprised of multiple classes and complimentary skills. An endless army of monsters and bosses are wreaking a magical doom on the world, so the heroes tackle the issue in the only way that makes any kind of logical sense, and that’s with a dance-off. Technically it’s a dance-off with lightning strikes, special attacks, healing spells and fireballs, but that just means the moves have more consequences than a sick burn.
The Metronomicon is a combination RPG/dancing game, but very different from the roguelike Crypt of the Necrodancer despite being able to be played with a dance mat. Battles are set to a single song with the combat lasting for its duration, and as one monster falls to your heroes’ attacks another stronger one takes its place in the lineup. Beating the song means clearing a boss creature, although if you’re particularly skilled you can keep on fighting bonus creatures all the way to the end of the music for extra loot. Each of the four heroes in the party has their own skill set, ranging in power from one to three, and which ability goes where is the player’s choice. A level 1 fireball casts quickly but a level 3 one packs more punch, and the same holds true with healing, attack, and support skills as well.
Choosing an attack is a bit more complicated than just pulling it from a menu, however. Each position of the battle lineup has its own note track for the song, and attacks and abilities are unleashed by completing short sections. Complete a section and stop hitting notes to use the level 1 ability, or keep on hitting notes to use whatever you’ve got slotted in to the level 2 or 3 spots. Obviously a level 1 fire attack is far more useful against a wood monster than a level 3 water spell, not only in damage but in speed of casting, and having a Strength Up spell cast over and over is useless because buffs don’t stack. Paying attention to each character’s skills is more important than just spamming the most powerful abilities if you want to fight effectively.
The actual fighting is done by means of a classic DDR-style note track, and can even be played with a dance mat if you want. The notes scroll down, you tap a direction to the beat, and when you’ve got the ability you want cued up switch to another character. The pre-chosen lineup I got to play with was fighter, defender, medic, and mage, and it didn’t take more than half a song to get used to the idea that I needed to use the right skills to clear the enemies. Fighter and mage kept the heavy hits coming, the healer kept the single health bar for the entire party topped off when I noticed it getting low, and the defender kept the support coming. While missing a note will break a combo, there’s no penalty for waiting a bit when switching from one character to another and letting a few beats scroll by before jumping into the new note track. True, the enemy won’t stop attacking while you get your footing, but at least your combo stays alive.
Enemy attacks are dangerous and you’ll want to make regular visits to the healer’s music strip, but the real trouble comes when monsters start casting effect spells. Taking a Dizzy hit makes the notes wobble in their lines, which doesn’t help on the harder difficulties as they swarm down in their dozens, while boulder drops a giant rock down a note track, causing heavy damage if you’re using that character when it hits. There are a large number of status effects planned, and the player party isn’t short on abilities either. While you can only take four members at once there’s a huge number of heroes to choose from, all with at least a few unique skills to exploit as you figure out the best ability combos.
A major part of any music game is, of course, the music and The Metronomicon is holding up its soundtrack with a fifty-song selection from a number of high-energy genres. The Jimmy Urine song is incredibly catchy, but there’s also synth, chiptunes and several style of electronica. There are also three difficulties per song plus four note tracks for each of the characters, so that’s 600 note tracks minimum in the full game. The music is backed up by a world that’s being invaded by dance parties, which sounds silly but makes perfect sense when your combat dancers are facing off against a cyclops in a green leopard-print tights in a gothic club with the speakers throbbing in the background. The Metronomicon revels in its weirdness and ties it all together with the soundtrack, making it almost logical for a dance-crazed monster rave to be subdued by a group of heroes with the smoothest moves around.