A Musical Story is a rhythm game developed by GleeCheese and published by Digerati. You follow a man and his band as they set off on a road trip to a music concert, the journey taking a few twists, turns, and bumps on the way. The story, set in the 70s, is as central as the gameplay, the two cleverly working together. It is up to you to unlock the memories of the main character Gabriel by playing music, telling the story of him and his band’s fateful journey along the way. You might think A Musical Story is just another rhythm game… but it’s much more than that. It’s a game designed to connect you with the characters and the story as well as the music. Read this A Musical Story review to see why it leaves such a lasting impact.
A Musical Story is now available on PC, Xbox One/Xbox Series X/S, PS4/PS5, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS.
STORY – A JOURNEY OF MANY MEANINGS
A Musical Story is a rhythm game with a story. Set in the 1970s, you follow a character called Gabriel, a factory worker who plays the guitar in a band with two friends, a drummer and a pianist. They make plans to perform at a concert called Pinewood. This sets in motion a road trip, a journey in a fixed-up van to Pinewood. It’s more than just a road trip though. It’s a journey of friendship, romance, battling personal demons, and of course, music.
When you load this game for the first time, you see Gabriel in a hospital bed, seemingly in a coma. You’re immediately intrigued. How did he get like this? Why is he in hospital? The only way to find out is to play on. This opening instantly gets you hooked. You want to dive right into the game and get the story started.
One thing you should know from this A Musical Story review is that the game isn’t long. It only takes about 2-3 hours to complete. A shorter game doesn’t equal a bad game though, not at all. What you’re given with the gameplay and the story is enough to stay with you after you’ve finished. The story is long enough to leave you satisfied, without being too long to make you lose the thread of the story and get bored of the gameplay.
You’ll quickly feel connected to the characters and the events that unfold. Gabriel makes a great character to focus on. He’s a very gifted musician, but he struggles with his addiction. This is cleverly represented by obnoxious purple birds with big yellow beaks that caw loudly, glowering and sneering at the characters, the player, and driving Gabriel slowly insane. As the game’s enemy, they stalk and torment you throughout Gabriel’s journey, and it’s done brilliantly. You’ll be willing him to overcome his demons. Fortunately, Gabriel’s love interest is his savior, a young female singer called Amelia the band picks up during their road trip. As you discover as you go through the story, music really is a powerful thing on many levels. It makes you appreciate what music can be, and that makes you appreciate this game even more. It gives you something to take away.
GAMEPLAY – THE POWER OF MUSIC
A Musical Story is special in that it combines rhythm gameplay and storytelling. It goes beyond the player pressing the right buttons at the right times. You do all this to progress the story.
The story is broken up into 25 chapters, each represented by a song. You have to perform each song to make the story go forward. You can see all the chapters (or songs) in a menu portrayed as a map. This map shows you where you are in the story.
In typical rhythm games, you have to press a series of buttons at the right time and order. A Musical Story follows that format, but it’s also a little different. Each song is broken up into different musical segments. Each segment focuses on an instrument, such as a guitar, piano, and drums. The notes you have to play appear in order in a circle as they’re played to you. Then, you have to play what you’ve just been given. A Musical Story really tests your ability to listen to music, as you basically have to repeat the notes you just heard. You must play all the notes correctly if you want to move onto the next segment. If you get even just one note wrong, you have to play the whole segment again. The process is repeated until you get it right. This is unlike other rhythm games, where if you miss a note, it just continues regardless. A Musical Story doesn’t allow that.
What makes the game that extra bit challenging is that there’s no indicator showing you where you’ll hit the note. It’s up to you to listen, get the beat, feel the rhythm, and hit the right notes at the right times. If you mess up, you get to have another go immediately. Also, if you repeat a segment enough times, an indicator will appear, showing you exactly where to hit the notes. As you repeat the segment more times, the indicator will become clearer. While the game wants you to get the rhythm right, if it sees that you’re struggling to get past a particular segment, it’ll help you out.
While this aspect of rhythm gameplay may be the most challenging part, A Musical Story isn’t overcomplicated. You only need to worry about pressing two buttons as you perform a song. With the Switch version, it’s the L and R buttons. These are very clearly represented on screen, the button prompts being completely different colors. It’s difficult to get confused and mix up the buttons. Even when you get more complicated sequences, it’s easy to distinguish which button you need to press. This means that you only really have to concentrate on getting the timing right. A Musical Story might be challenging in places, but it doesn’t go overboard in making it too difficult.
You have a good reason to push through a song. When you successfully complete a segment, you’ll unlock a scene. This is shown in a circle, like you’re looking through a spyglass… or into someone’s memory. It might be something as simple as a forest backdrop, or a character performing, or something of interest. When you complete the song’s final segment, the scene will open up, filling the screen, and you’re rewarded with the full picture. Each song represents a moment in Gabriel’s journey, and each segment you complete unlocks a part of his memory. Completing the whole song reveals the complete memory. Mixing the story in with playing songs is what makes this game special. In this rhythm game, getting the rhythm right is about seeing the story, rather than trying to get a high score, although that is important too.
Many rhythm games tallies a high score based on how well you hit notes. A Musical Story has its own score system. While you will be able to complete all songs and repeat segments you trip up on, you get rewarded for a perfect performance. A flawless performance requires you to nail every note, not missing a single one and getting none wrong. If you nail all the songs, you’re rewarded with a bonus chapter. Without giving away any spoilers for this A Musical Story review, it’s gives an extra-satisfying conclusion to the story.
The great thing about A Musical Story is that you can replay the songs. From the chapters menu, you can select any song you’ve already completed. You can play the songs as many times as you like without having to go through the whole story again. If you like the songs or want to get a perfect score, this is very useful.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO – A MUSICAL MASTERPIECE
You can’t have a good rhythm game with bad music. That doesn’t apply to A Musical Story, not one bit.
The music in this game perfectly reflects the vibes of the 70’s, warping you back to that era. There’s a wonderfully timeless feel to it. There’s something very hypnotic and almost magical about the music. It steers you into an emotion and state of mind. It integrates you into the story and into the shoes of the characters. The music isn’t repetitive. It can be upbeat, moving, sad, angry, dangerous, optimistic, and beautiful. The music perfectly matches the scene that’s unfolding. The best part is, you get to play along with it. You hit the notes as the music plays, whether it’s the guitar or the piano at the focus. You’re not just listening to it; you are the music.
Let’s talk about the art style and animation in A Musical Story. They are as entrancing as the music. The art style is wonderfully artistic and striking. The animations are as fluid and bold as the music you’re listening and playing to. What’s really clever is how Gabriel’s addiction is portrayed. The vulgar cawing purple birds and the dancing yellow flames and the puffs of smoke are characteristically stark and ugly against the more subtle art style, highlighting the significance of Gabriel’s addiction and biggest obstacle.
Did you agree with this A Musical Story review? What are your thoughts on the game? Let us know in the comments!
A Musical Story was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with a game key provided by Digerati.