24th Sep2018

‘Old School Musical’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

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Amusing writing, retro visuals and a truly wonderful chiptune soundtrack combined with a surprisingly lengthy story mode and zany visual gags are on the horizon for you, but can only really be enjoyed with a Dance Mat peripheral.

I’m a fan of rhythm games, a few drinks or even just a fun competition with a partner can give extended shelf-life to even a mediocre example of the genre, which this game definitely isn’t with its idiosyncratic approach. Whilst Old School Musical has a lot going for it, the fact that I was playing with a controller slowly sapped the usual energy and inherent fun that comes with jumping around like a fool in your living room.

The story begins with the characters Rob and Tib growing up with their domineering mother on a small island. In their teenage years, just after their mother pretty much attempts to murder them by throwing fridges and grenades at them (the items were all ensconced in her knickers, natch) a weird ‘glitch’ starts to take over their home and they are transported to a space station, thus begins the adventure in earnest.

Rob and Tib proceed to move through various levels which will seem veeeeeery familiar to players of the 8 and 16 bit generations whilst control of the characters is done via rhythm button presses. The d-pad and shoulder buttons are used in a way that reminded me of Dance Dance Revolution crossed with a bonkers story in the vein of Gitaroo Man, where anything can (and does) happen. The visuals are pixelated for the most part but the art style changes depending on the level, of course, the rhythm controls remain mostly the same with the exception of brief sections where you can explore which quite frankly act more as exposition pieces than full levels in themselves.

The main controls are the most responsive that I’ve ever used in the genre on wireless controllers thanks in no small part to the pre-intro screen that spends a few precious, precious moments calibrating the delay in your connection. It’s a game-changer that I wish recent game ‘Behind the Screen’ featured, as that slight delay became a deal-breaker in the later stages. The main drawn for Old School Musical, however, is the quality of the aforementioned chiptune music, it is astonishingly good. As I moved through levels that ranged from Mega Man to Outrun to Metal Gear Solid and beyond, my journey was accompanied by a really tasty soundtrack that kept me intrigued into seeing what the next level had to offer in the sonic landscape.

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Of course, the game is crying out for a Dance Mat. As fun as it is, after a while the novelty was wearing off and although a multiplayer mode is included, along with various difficulty levels for all skills of play, I really wanted to put my pad down and shift my shoes on some multicoloured plastic sheeting, as I assume we all do.

In summary, Old School Musical will appeal to those who are fans of chiptune music and enjoy a self-referential gag reel but my word, even the fans will yearn for that all-important peripheral.

I’d also like to mention that, whilst it didn’t affect me, my partner struggled with some sections where the scrolling of the ‘background’ game was quite intense when combined with the rhythm game overlay, so could be worth bearing in mind if you suffer from motion sickness.

Also, Old School Musical holds my inaugural award for ‘Best Game Over Screen’. Brilliant.

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