When it comes to video game genres I feel are sorely underrepresented, the rhythm genre is one that often pops into mind. Years ago, I enjoyed games like Elite Beat Agents, Gitaroo Man, and the home version of Dance Dance Revolution. Nowadays if you want to play a mainstream rhythm game you have to turn to Rhythm Heaven (which is good, don't get me wrong) or look for an arcade that's imported some Bemani games for the patrons to play. It's because of this that I'm always on the lookout for rhythm games so I can show people that the genre still has some life in it. Maybe my efforts can help resuscitate the genre like players can resuscitate the patients in Rhythm Doctor, the one-button rhythm game by 7th Beat Games.
Defibrillation for dummies
The most basic rules of the game can be summed up in the image above. The patient's heartbeats cause a pulse to travel down the line, and you press the spacebar right on the seventh beat. Being too late or too early causes the heart to crack and eventually shatter, resulting in a failed stage. Those are the basic rules, but there obviously more to it than that. Heart rates in this game don't stay stable, and they can get pretty interesting. Beats may pass by quicker, go slower, be irregular, and parts of the line may get obscured, blocking off visual and audio cues for that beat. The game also includes 2-player co-op, where one player uses the left Shift key and the other takes the right Shift key to save their patients.
If you're wondering why I'm talking about the demo now, there's a chance you're thinking about a free older demo from a few years ago back when this game was part of the IGF Student Showcase. The Prerelease Demo, which was released last month, is another vertical slice of the game that showcases some of the harder stages and their tricks. If you pick up the Prerelease Demo and find it too hard, the older demo is focused on easier stages.
The Demo's stages
The Prerelease Demo features "…a few of our favorite levels from the game, a vertical slice that gives you a feel for the final game." Three of these four stages aren't featured in the other demo and represent later stages or, in one case, a harder variation of a previously shown stage. (Song links in the stage's title)
Oriental Insomniac (Act 1 Boss)
This stage was the final stage of the free older demo. The stage seems like an easy one at first, since there's a simple rhythm to follow and it never changes. The stage's difficulty kicks in quickly, however, when the game starts having graphical and audio glitches. The music stutters, rewinds, and warps. Despite all the glitches, the beat stays the same throughout, and the player has to keep the beat while not getting thrown off by the glitches.
All the Times (Act 2 Boss)
This stage introduces a new gimmick: patients with Supraventricular Tachycardia. What that means from a gameplay perspective is that the patient has two beats instead of eight. The game primes you on the two beats with a voice saying "Get! Set!" and you have to hit the button on the 2nd beat
The patient in this stage has SVT from way too much coffee, and it shows. When you start the stage, the game forcibly enters windowed mode, and eventually starts moving and shaking along with the song. It makes it hard to see the screen, but all you need to do is stay on rhythm and be careful about the fake beats that are part of the song. I'm honestly very impressed by the moving window mechanic and how it seamlessly moves with the song. (The version on Soundcloud is a longer cut, and might be used for the stage's hard version.)
One Shift More (Act 3 Boss)
This stage doesn't have any real gimmicks. What it does have, however, is a story. The stage has you managing up to four patients at once as the song tells the tale of an overworked doctor, two of her patients, and a literally demonic politician. It's definitely got more "story" than the other stages, though.
Super Oriental Insomniac (Act 1 Boss Night Shift)
The last three stages are part of the "normal" story mode. This stage is a 'Night Shift' stage, which takes stages you've played before and makes them harder. The free demo had Night Shift stages for the first three stages, but Oriental Insomniac didn't have one. Until now.
Super Oriental Insomniac starts off as a faster version of the regular stage, except faster and buggier, including the message spam above. However, when you get to the second phase…
At this point, the songs switches from 1/8 time to 1/7 time. You still have to hit the button on the 7th beat, but the first beat follows up immediately afterwards. It's definitely the hardest of the (non-secret) songs, especially in the third phase, when the song hits maximum glitch.
As I mentioned, since this is a vertical slice, there's not much in the way of story. Despite this, there's an easter egg hidden in the stage. If you play the song five times in a row, the first conversation between the doctors partway through the first phase changes:
"Do I have to sound surprised every time?"
"Yes now quit whining Ian."
Odds, ends, and conclusion
An obvious problem with writing about a rhythm game is that it's hard to show how the game works and its great music. Still, Rhythm Doctor sounds like good medicine for anyone looking for more rhythm games. The game isn't out yet, and there's no set release date, but you can get the Preorder Demo here. By buying it for $15, you get:
- Our sincere appreciation for supporting our development
- Your name added to the credits, which will be featured somewhere special in the game
- A key for the full version of the game, which will be sent to you when the game is finished
- A demo of a few of our favorite levels from the game, a vertical slice that gives you a feel for the final game. Note these levels are quite difficult and assume you have managed to beat the flash demo already.
- The latest version of our Custom Level Editor, that allows you to play community levels and make your own
- Customise your sleeves with the Sleeve Painter tool!
- Custom level player, with full screen mode wow
- Secret levels for the brave
I've been watching the game for a good while, and I'm really liking what I see (and hear.) I'm looking forward to seeing the full version when it releases.