One of my favorite genres on handheld platforms is rhythm – Elite Beat Agents was in my DS cart slot for months at a time, and I’d still argue Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is one of the best 3DS games out there. It’s not like I’m a music buff either – I gave up playing the piano after a week and never looked back.
There’s just something about rhythm games, especially the more bizarre and conceptual ones, that speaks to me. If I had to guess why, it’s the pure, arcade-like fun wrapped up in a pleasing package.
So color me surprised when the Nintendo Switch had a rhythm game announced mere weeks before launch – Voez (stylized VOEZ). While it grabbed headlines for being the first Switch game to be playable only in handheld mode, it caught my attention thanks to its simple look and seemingly catchy beats. Does the Switch have its defining rhythm game already?
Feel the Music
Voez was originally released by Taiwanese company Rayark Games in the first half of 2016 for mobile devices. This origin makes itself incredibly clear from the offset – none of the buttons function and everything is focused on the touchscreen. Thankfully the UI is incredibly pleasing to look at, if a little obtuse at times.
Once you get into a song you quickly realize the game has to be handheld mode only, with the game relying on fast, multi-touch inputs. These range from simple taps to holds and swipes, with three difficulty modes (Easy, Hard and Special) ramping up the challenge. If you want an idea of how intense it gets, simply head over to YouTube, search “Voez Special” and prepare to get your mind melted.
Thankfully the lower difficulties are better suited for those of us who don’t have the reflexes of a hawk, and it’s worth noting that each track has its own difficulty rating denoted by a number. A track rated 4 is much more accessible than one rated 14, for example.
Perhaps my favorite part of playing the songs, though, is the sheer amount of visual flourish. Unlike most other lane-based rhythm games, like Guitar Hero, the playing field constantly changes up, usually to the flow of the music. Lanes move around, new ones appear and the colors are in constant flux, which would be distracting if it weren’t so immersive and engaging.
As you need to have multiple fingers at the ready, however, it’s best to position the Switch in a certain way – flat on a table or at a 45 degree angle against something soft, like a cushion. This can get a little uncomfortable, but thanks to the quick gameplay sessions there are ample opportunities to stretch it out.
While many rhythm games manufacture progress by gradually unlocking more songs as you play, Voez has you experience one easy tutorial track and then opens up the whopping 100+ track list. While this is quite overwhelming at first, it’s honestly refreshing having so much music available at your fingertips. The range of genres is very eclectic too, ranging from chill ballads to energetic dubstep.
This avalanche of content is likely due to the game’s mobile origins, where songs were purchasable separately with a free rotation. Thanks to the single eShop fee, that dividing of content wasn’t really necessary. Another Switch bonus is that it doesn’t need to be always-online, unlike its mobile counterparts.
Gashapon pooping Chuchu
Every song being unlocked immediately means the game relies on two other elements of progression. Both of these are a little odd, although one more so than the other – as you play the game and beat certain challenges (such as getting a B rank or higher on a Special difficulty track) you unlock “Keys” that let you pay a bird called Chuchu to poop out a gashapon ball containing three random user icons.
Truth be told these user icons don’t seem to serve much purpose. They hang out at the top left of the screen at all times, but as the game has no multiplayer component and is confined to the Switch tablet by design, you won’t be sharing your choice with friends easily.
The game’s other unlockable is the Diary. This updates as you complete the aforementioned challenges, drip-feeding you a story that’s not quite a visual novel but shares much of the same design language.
While I wouldn’t say this diary is bad necessarily, it is strangely disconnected from the actual gameplay, requiring you to go all the way back out to the main menu to even access it. Thankfully the art used can be really beautiful, with intricately detailed watercolors and a nice, subdued style.
C’est la Voez
Voez is as sleek and simple as rhythm games get, oozing with style and satisfying gameplay. While there isn’t much sense of progression, Switch owners who want to test their reflexes to some energetic beats should definitely give it a go.
As for myself, I doubt it will become system-defining like the rhythm games I mentioned earlier, but it’s a game I’ll definitely keep coming back to.Leave a Comment
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: March 9, 2017 (US)
Publisher: Circle Entertainment
Developer: Rayark Games