Old School Musical (Switch eShop) Review
One genre the Switch has really been neglected lately has been the rhythm game. Sure there’s a few, but there could be more. Thankfully Old School Musical (OSM) is ready to bring the tunes and provide us with a different take on the Action Rhythm genre.
Tib and Rob are two block-shaped Arkhadians who have been raised on an island by their evil and overbearing Mother, insisting on training them to be heroes. One day the island they’re on suddenly begins to glitch, and are given a remote and a letter telling them to get to safety and save the world. Using the remote the brothers find themselves on a space station filled with portals to different areas, each representing a different game homage. You’ll take the brothers on a journey to stop the glitching and become the heroes they were destined to be.
Many tracks on OSM are inspired by a wide range of games including Mega Man, TMNT, Metal Slug, Zelda, Outrun and plenty more. As well as the music, they go all in on the homages. Tib and Rob will find themselves dressed in garb from the appropriate game, more often than not a good opportunity for a light-hearted poke at some of the sillier aspects (especially the Metal Gear part). If you’re familiar with the games they reference within the game, or just like retro chip tunes then there’s plenty here for you. Even if you’re not so familiar with the games these tunes inspire, it’s still a good rhythm game with some good tunes.
When I was coming into the game I was aware of the heavy inspirations they drew from other games, so I didn’t know if we were talking ‘just different enough to avoid lawsuits’ or what. Turns out while the music draws inspiration from other games it is still its own thing. While there is a lot of good music here I did pine for some of the notable absences like Sonic, and more great sounding Sega games. Having the music as inspired as it was, I did wish I could just have a game with the original music for some of these games with the same rhythm mechanics (yes I know it’s a tad unrealistic). Although don’t let this diminish the quality of the tunes in the game as they are solid and there’s plenty there.
There’s a fair variety in the number of different ways rhythm games display input, and in OSM it was quite refreshing with how straightforward it is. There is the input at the centre of the screen, displayed to reflect the four directions of the buttons on the face of the Joy-Con and Pro Controller. The notes from the song will flow from the four directions where you have to hit them, with good timing to build up a score meter. There are also moments in the song where notes scroll up and you have to time hitting the notes with the triggers/bumper buttons. With the Joy-Con bumpers, it felt a little less responsive than I had hoped. This felt more like a failing of the bumper buttons not being suited over them being programmed to not be responsive. Generally, I found it easy to follow and the notes fit in well with the timing of the music.
It works even better when the vibration setting is on in the options. I found it weird that this setting is off by default, as the vibration gives great feedback to tell if you actually hit the note or not. I played through the game on normal mode and found it to be a decent challenge. I only found myself having to retry a few portions of the game. If you’re great at rhythm games, then the Hard mode might be more your speed. One thing I noticed when the music got more intense and there were many notes advancing quickly, some moments were overwhelming. When you miss a note the game doesn’t slow down or give any chance to recover, and then it throws in obstacles like ‘glitches’ that also visually make viewing the note paths difficult. You can wind up feeling like there isn’t a way to bounce back. Glitching parts of the level aren’t that common, but when they do the game stops being as fun as you slog through. They’re not issues that would keep you from being able to do well (although if you’re affected by rapidly flashing lights you may want to be careful), they’re just issues that make it not as fun as it could be.
To get through the story it took about 4-5 hours. After that, there is, of course, going back in the arcade mode with a different difficulty setting. There is also another mode that gives the game a few more hours gameplay and extra music to try out later. This extra chicken-filled mode that unlocks doesn’t just contain more music to play, each song also carries different modifiers. Whether its rotating arrows in the circles to distract, smaller circles, fast forwarding and glitchy circles. Some don’t really make a difference; the glitches like in the main game create a bigger impact. It’s a mode they didn’t need to put into the game at all, but combined with the story tunes there are about 50 songs all up to enjoy if you were worried about there not being enough.
A cool feature that they’ve also put in is during the developer logos at the beginning, there is a button to quick start and jump into a random song to keep things fresh. If you have friends over you can even all hop into a multiplayer mode, I didn’t spend much time with this but it seems to be more a shared co-op than a battle. In the end, it helps extend the life of this game especially if your friends like rhythm games too.
Old School Musical is a great action rhythm game for fans of chiptunes. Some homages may be more obscure than others, but the music sounds good regardless if you like chiptunes. Notice a pattern? The music is something a niche audience would love, there are no songs with vocals or more modern sounds. But if you like appreciating the music of the 80s and 90s games OSM might just have a song for you.
Rating: 3.5 / 5
- Great chiptune music and lots of it
- Straight forward and fun rhythm inputs
- Surprising amount of story for a rhythm game
- Little chance of recovery
- ‘glitching’ sections are just tedious