Rapidfire Review: Fret Nice

Game Write-ups on Ritalin

Hello, game writer central denizens. We’re rolling out a quickie review tonight of the PS3 demo Fret Nice. For the time-constrained gamer, game demos are an ideal way of assessing the longevity of a videogame before the actual purchase. Game demos aren’t always a perfect reflection of the final product, but they’ll always capture the core gameplay, art style, and feel.

Wanna find out what a game writer and game designer thinks of a demo? You’re in the right place.

Fret Nice is a charming sidescroller with some unique art direction. The hook? It’s music-themed and you use a guitar controller to move your character through the level. Playing the right riffs zaps monsters and tilting the guitar triggers leaps.

I wanted to like this quirky game. Sadly, Fret Nice didn’t really impress me beyond the initial visuals. Here are the drawbacks:

  • I couldn’t figure out the correspondence between monster types and the riffs I was supposed to play. I sense there’s a cool gameplay mechanic here, but I couldn’t see it visually. As you start to play, a dialog bubble appears above your guitar-toting avatar, which looks a lot like the bulbous baddies. Notes look like eyes; if you play a lot of notes, your dialog bubble looks like a multi-eyed monstrosity… match the eyes and you zap the beast. This is a sly concept, but in practice I couldn’t get it to correspond. For a simple DLC game like this, it’s got to be obvious.
  • You can only play riffs when airborne. This is annoying and unintuitive. Save that for advanced levels, not for your game demo.
  • Your riffs sound horrible, like plunking on a toy keyboard. C’mon, guys. You’ve got all the power of this console, which is pumping out a plucky soundtrack, and you can’t synch that to something that sounds halfway cool? Gameplay fail. In a game visually and physically centered around music, playing riffs should be utterly gratifying, mirroring and amping up the audio already accompanying the game. It should rock! You should want to play riffs even when baddies aren’t on screen.
  • The controls suck. Tilting the guitar to jump is a funny idea at first, and it gets old after about the fifth jump. You can play the game with a regular controller, and you can probably reassign the jump function to a guitar button, but the mercury switch should not be the default.

Fret Nice is a Tecmo game for Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.

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