So now you’ve played it. So you understand.
Groove Coaster is pleasing for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that it’s a gorgeous-looking, solidly-playing game with plenty of content for the miniscule amount of money you pay for it. The Infinity Gene-style visuals complement the gameplay well, being attractive without distracting, and they look beautifully pin-sharp on the Retina display of the iPhone 4.
That’s not the best thing about Groove Coaster, though. No; the best thing about it by far is how it calls to mind the days when music games were home to a huge amount of creativity. We had virtual turntables (BeatMania), a rapping dog (Parappa the Rapper), a guitar-toting sheep that really didn’t look like a sheep (UmJammer Lammy), a rabbit that liked prancing around on wiggly lines (Vib Ribbon) and weird things that liked racing down tunnels (Frequency/Amplitude).
These days, though, what do we have? Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and it’s questionable whether or not we really have Guitar Hero still. Okay, we have DJ Hero too, but for the most part, it’s all about the plastic instruments.
Groove Coaster casts the mind back to a time before Guitar Hero, when music games were about the music, not about the things you had in your hands while you were playing (not your penis, you filthy pervert. You know your mind was going there.) No; Groove Coaster is about losing yourself in an enormously diverse array of clearly Japanese music tracks and letting your finger do all the work. Success is down to how well you engage with the music, and how well you can equate the on-screen figures (which twist and turn rather than following the linear path of Guitar Hero and Rock Band) with the way the music is going. You can’t play it passively — it’s a game you need to concentrate on. It’s not about “party play” — no bad thing in itself, I might add — but it’s about getting inside the music and “feeling” it in a way I haven’t experienced since Frequency and Amplitude.
The other great thing is the characteristically Japanese music makes me think of Namco’s PS1 games — Ridge Racer Type 4 and Anna Kournikova’s Smash Court Tennis specifically. These games had fantastic non-licensed music that was obviously Japanese but had enough Western-style “funk” about it to appeal to a universal audience. There are several tracks in Groove Coaster that would certainly not have been out of place in a Namco title from the late 90s. This, as they say, is a Good Thing.
I don’t even mind the fact that the game gratuitously sells “boost” items and extra tracks for actual money, because 1) I paid so little for the game in the first place, 2) there’s plenty of content in there without buying anything extra and 3) the “boost” items don’t necessarily give you a massive advantage, they’re just a bit more convenient.
So, then, if you ignored my first paragraph and still haven’t downloaded Groove Coaster I say again: go get it now. (If you want to. Please don’t hit me. What are you doing with that shov–)