Remember when iNiS made good rhythm games? You know, games like Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!, Elite Beat Agents, and Gitaroo Man? These games were known for their great tracklists, addictive gameplay, and quirky characters. They were a breath of fresh air in the oppressive peripheral-sporting, rock-centric, band festival of yesteryear. Although they have seemingly gone the way of the dodo, Square Enix and iNiS seem determined to bring rhythm games back from the brink of extinction with their latest iOS and Android rhythm game, Demons’ Score. Did iNiS succeed in raising the dead or should they have left it six feet under?
First, let me start off my saying Demons’ Score is $6.99! Six-Ninety-Nine!
Holy crap! That’s great! That’s amazing! Finally, a reasonably priced Square Enix game for the mobile market. And with iNiS developing, it’s sure to be filled with tons of songs, levels, accessible difficulties, and a ridiculous story! Unfortunately, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In Demons’ Score, you play as a teenaged girl named Serenity who, for some unknown reason, has decided to visit her father’s spooky laboratory in the middle of nowhere. There she meets a teddy bear named Daniel, who explains to her that all of Hell is about to break loose unless she uses the power of her phone app, Demon’s Score, to do… something and close it. Daniel tells Serenity that she must find her father before all hell breaks loose, so sword and gun in hand, they begin to fly down the compound’s infinite hallways, shooting demons to the beat of music. That’s it. That’s the story. It’s thinner than the hair in a geriatric asscrack and just as crappy. It’s understandable to have a thin plot for a rhythm game, but when the plot is this bad, it becomes more obtrusive than anything else.
The gameplay is highly reminiscent of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! You tap, slash, and slide your finger to the on-screen rings as they pop up. The better your timing, the more points you earn, and in some cases, the more health you restore.
Each stage is split into two parts: an action stage where you fly down neverending corridors to the beat of your currently selected demon’s melody and a boss battle stage. Using the power of her app, Serenity is able to make pacts with boss demons and use their power to transform herself into several different busty heroines. You’re given the chance to change demons after every location so that you can change the tune for the action stage in the next area. But that would be too much fun, right? In order to make pacts with demons, you have to spend cash. Yes, dollars. Dinero. Cash. Bread. I’m not talking about a .99 cent purchase either. Each pact costs $2.99 and $3.99 depending on the demon you choose. Demons’ Score was $6.99. Now? It’s close to $40 dollars if you want to play more than two songs between boss battles.
On top of that, some of the battles are hidden behind locked difficulties which each have their own level minimum. The minimum itself isn’t a problem, as I found myself above and beyond it by the time I finished each difficulty. The real problem is that you’re forced to play through the game three times to experience “everything,” including the game’s ending. There’s no way to practice in freeplay on harder difficulties without beating the campaign on a lesser difficulty and then beating the song itself again in story mode. Even then, you can only play the boss tracks again unless, of course, you fork over the ransom money for the characters.
Luckily, the songs you’re limited to in the basic version are very good. Square Enix staples such as Yoko Shimomura and Kenji Ito, as well as a handful of others, supply the tracks for the game. Each track goes great with the wackadoo personalities of the bosses you fight. One moment you’ll be fighting a giant archdemon; and the next, you’ll be in a dance battle for you life against Beelzebub, Hell’s #1 Teen Idol (her words, not mine). To add to the insanity, Serenity takes on the voice, complete with new dialogue, of the demon with who she is currently in a pact.
Now, usually a rhythm game follows a certain beat in the song that’s easy to pick out and follow. It’s no different in Demons’ Score, but there were a few instances of the voice acting getting in the way of hearing the actual song. There are no options in the main menu, so you’re stuck with what the game deems appropriate. Honestly, it wasn’t much of an issue outside of hearing the same lines over and over and over again. That is, until I got to the final boss. Imagine my surprise when I get to the final boss only for him to scream at the top of his lungs like I’m chopping off his ‘nads. At this point, he’s screaming over the music, making it near impossible to hear any sort of tune that I’m supposed to be following. Let’s just say it was a miserable experience.
The game doesn’t waste any time reminding you that you’ve only bought part of it. It’s a completely aggravating experience in general, but for a rhythm game? That’s just downright repulsive. It’s sad that Square Enix and iNiS decided to go this route, as the game would’ve been much better off at a slightly higher price with all the content available after a single purchase. At times, it almost feels as if the game is built against you ramping up the difficulty randomly in hopes that you’ll buy items or stronger characters. For once, I was excited about mobile gaming. Now I’m back to where I started, scratching my head with confusion as to why anyone would put up with this mess. Until Square Enix (and the rest of the games industry) gets their act together, I’ll put down my iPad and read a book or something.
This review is based on a copy of the game purchased by the reviewer for iOS.