You’d think that with the amount of press releases I’m fortunate enough to read each day that I’d know basically every title heading to Xbox in the near future. It’s always nice then to find a title that not only had I not seen prior, but one that turns out to be so damn enjoyable that I’m glad it cross my radar when it did. A Musical Story is the latest title to follow this trend, and is something I would whole-heartedly recommend you check out.
Mixing wordless storytelling, call and response rhythm gameplay, and some frankly fantastic music, this short but very sweet experience had me hooked from start to finish. The story is told as a series of flashbacks in the mind of a guitarist in a 70’s funk/rock band after being put in hospital due to a car crash. We relive his and the bands journey from humble beginnings while aiming for the ultimate dream of playing a huge festival. Even wordlessly, developers Glee Cheese get the vibe and tale across brilliantly thanks to some excellent artwork and the all-important music.
Memories are broken down into short riffs, usually swapping between the three members instruments. A small glimmer can be seen in the middle of the screen, with the note track encircling this. The way Glee Cheese set up the call and response style inputs is very smart and intuitive; the music plays for a few bars, with the note track then following along with a single riff, showing us the timing of the inputs we need to follow. Once the circle completes, its then our turn to play along. This is achieved using just the left and right bumpers, with the required one clearly noted on screen. Complete a bar without missing a beat and the small glimmer widens so we can see that part of the memory before moving onto the next part of the song, while beating all the riffs within a section expands the images further to a full screen recap, once again pre presented in a unique and excellent visual style.
It’s easy to grasp, but don’t get too comfy as some of the sections can throw us off with odd time signatures or rapid fire notes. As pointed out to me by my illustrious wife, this is more Guitaroo Man than Guitar Hero, with us playing along with various instruments in each section. As such, we can go from a straightforward rhythm guitar section to drum infills or psychedelic keyboard flutters. By default, the game requires us to keep time using our natural rhythm in order to achieve the best result, being a full completion without missing a note and earning a purple star. Miss a note and that star is out of the window, but we can still carry on playing to progress the levels. Each miss sees the music loop back round seamlessly, and after a few goes we get a little help in the form of a white dot that helps moves around the circle in time with the music. This can be enabled any time but at the cost of getting that purple star; as far as I can tell, we need to collect all 24 to access the final bonus level, which will be a tall order indeed.
The front and back thirds of the story feature some excellent 70’s funk/rock music, with fun and interesting note patterns to play along with as well as some surprisingly engaging story telling within those visual interludes. However, anyone familiar with the stereotypical band looking for success story will know that the mixture of passion and, usually, mind altering substances as well as stress can take its toll on the members. This is the focus of the middle third, and while the music is still very good it takes a turn to a more prog rock feel and as such, the difficulty ups a fair amount. The odd time signatures as well as some seemingly random notes being chucked in made even clearing some of these tough, let alone doing it flawlessly. Importantly it was still enjoyable enough – I beat it in one sitting over the course of about 2 hours – but it’s a definite dip in what is otherwise a really fun experience. It’s also the only real barrier between me and that final bonus mission, which is something I’m going to have to contend with if I want to see that.
Despite the slight dip in the middle, I came away from A Musical Story utterly won over. It has simple but effective gameplay, some excellent music, and a touching tale told entirely in its fantastic artwork and music.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.