Throughout my life, I haven’t been the best at rhythm games. I’m able to make a pretty good run at them when I’m in the right frame of mind but even then, my reactions to the on-screen prompts can be a bit off. Which, considering one of my favourite games of all time (The Binding of Isaac) has the potential to train lightning-fast reflexes into you, is a bit odd.
Nonetheless, given a flash sale and some Steam Wallet funds laying around – Thanks Joel – I decided to pick up a game that had caught my eye on visuals alone: Melody’s Escape.
The premise is simple. You play as a girl called Melody, with your goal being to avoid obstacles along a side-scrolling track. The obstacles and speed at which Melody travels is determined by the song playing in the background.
Melody herself is customisable in one of the game’s menus. You can change her colour palette, her outfit and her hairstyle to create an avatar that reflects your personality. Of course, me being me I gave her a cute black dress and long anime-style twintails.
What are you escaping? Well, nothing. There’s no monster chasing after you, no wall of infinitely approaching death behind you, just running along this course. Melody puts her headphones on before the start of each track, so she is listening along to the music you are playing.
Perhaps, the music is an escape for her as much as the game is an escape for you.
I’ll let the store page on Steam preface the gameplay:
“Very accurate and fast music analysis: Melody’s Escape features extremely accurate beat-matching algorithms and is optimized to analyse a song in its entirety within a few seconds.”
The game comes with 6 preloaded songs, which are obviously what the algorithm has been optimised towards. On these songs, note detection is spot-on perfect with held notes syncing perfectly to the audio. Obstacles appear in the form of slopes to grind down, walls to kick down, tunnels to duck/slide under and when songs get faster, Melody will make great leaps or, if she’s flying, glide through areas.
There are various difficulty modes, allowing players to choose how they want to enjoy the game.
- “Relaxing” features minimal obstacles and orbs, with only a single direction needing to be pressed per intensity level
- “Medium” has all 4 directions for prompts but both orbs and obstacles can be collected with either WASD/arrow keys for keyboard or D-pad/face buttons for controller
- “Intense” is the true rhythm game experience. Orbs are more frequent and closer together requiring precise button presses and orb collection is now unpaired from obstacle traversal
- “Overload” will act as a true challenge. Even more orbs and obstacles now require both buttons to be traversed successfully
- “Autoplay” can be used to see how a song is going to play in terms of intensity, or if you just want to appreciate the game’s visuals to your favourite music
Speaking of favourite music, I did a fair few courses using some of the music I have on my PC. Both to experience the game with the music I enjoy listening to, and to test how well the algorithm handles different genres of music.
As advertised the algorithm can analyse a song incredibly quickly and accurately determine the tempo and intensity of sections. Only a few songs out of the ones played before writing this article had the prompt “no stable 4/4 tempo detected”, but the course still played perfectly fine.
There are moments where the game’s input will be slightly off with how the song is actually going, but in my opinion it’s not massively noticeable. The game has a standard audio/video latency calibration system, so you can adjust inputs as you grow used to the game.
To conclude, Melody’s Escape is incredibly addictive and tonnes of fun. I’d have loaded up the game to check a fact I’d written down in the article and go “one song won’t hurt”, then I’d play more songs after that one to see how I could do on them.
The game is cheap on Steam at £6.99 (or local equivalent price) and when I bought it on sale it was 50% off making it even more value for money. Those who are into rhythm games will enjoy the harder difficulties as it quickly becomes a Dance Dance Revolution sidescroller, and those who are enthralled by the visuals will find Medium and Relaxing both their speed but with a good amount of challenge.