Technic Beat

Review

posted 12/29/2004 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
There used to be a time when weird Japanese games were never released over here, because they cost too much money to translate and there was never a large enough audience to support these niche titles. But lately this has not been the case, especially on the PlayStation 2. For the last several years companies have gone out of their way to release all kinds of wacky titles that at one time would never have been considered for these shores. And to make these games even more tempting, a lot of them are marked at rock bottom prices, cheaper than even the cheapest big name budget title.

Technic Beats is one such game, a title that oozes with Japanese weirdness. It’s a music game that’s less expensive than most albums, and one that might actually be worth your while, if you can put up with a few caveats.

Describing Technic Beats may prove to be a difficult task, since it doesn’t really play like any other music game. For one thing, you won’t have to worry about pushing different buttons at the right time; only one button is used for all the notes. Instead of worrying about the various buttons, you will be able to focus on getting to the notes (which are marked by circles that pop up all over the stage). Once you get to the note you will need to push the activate button on the exact beat, marked by a sound ripple going from the center to the border of the circle. It’s your job to push the button at the exact moment the ripple and the border touch, giving you a “perfect” mark if you do it correctly, or a “bad” mark if you’re too early or late. This description may sound convoluted, but I assure you, it actually makes a lot of sense when your playing the game.

You control any one of six different characters, ranging from a man with a keyboard on his back to a robot to a little girl with giant headphones. Although this motley crew appears to do the same thing at first, they actually have some qualities unique to their character. Everybody is equipped with a different super move, moves that can only be used a set number of times in a round. These moves are everything from the practical (making the note’s circumference larger) to the violent (such as shooting lasers out of your eyes).

Each character is able to move the note around the board, but like the special moves, it’s different for every character. Some people can simply pick the note up and walk around with it, while others are forced to kick it to where they want to activate it. By moving the note you can connect it to other notes that are popping up, ultimately leading you to linking a multi-note combination. Getting rid of the notes this way also helps clear the board, so you aren’t just running around from note to note.

The game also allows for some, albeit limited, alterations of the notes. By double clicking every note you can extend the note, but it sound more like an echo than a natural extension of the note. You can also manipulate the pitch by using the right analog stick. While I appreciate having this kind of control over the notes, it seemed like a few more could have gone a long way. In the higher levels you’ll be spending too much time trying to get all the notes that you’ll barely have enough time to fiddle with the pitch or any other fancy modification.


I would say that the various user controlled song alterations sound pretty bad, but I have a hunch a lot of people would argue that the game already sounds pretty bad. Let’s face it; the music in this game is not going to be everybody’s cup of tea. In fact, saying it’s a niche audience might be a bit of an understatement. They are split up into a couple of different groups, original songs and themes from famous Namco games.

You read that right; the game actually sports over 30 different themes from classic Namco games. We’re talking games like Rolling Thunder, Dig Dug, PacMania, Galaxian 3, Splatterhouse, Mappy, Ridge Racer, Dragon Spirit, Sky Kid, and so many more. There are also a lot of themes from old, obscure, and Japanese Namco games whose theme songs you probably won’t recognize, but are added for good measure. Although the rest of the songs are not from video games, they have a similar sound and fit that weird Japanese-theme song vibe found in the other group.

Whether you’re going to like this music is really a personal choice, it’s clear from the very first song that you’re either going to dance around like one of those kids in the Charlie Brown cartoons or you’re going to want to slam your head against the wall repeatedly until the music stops. Many of the songs use unconventional sounds to get their point across, including bells, telephone rings, and other things that have a way of driving some people to the brink of anger. Although my experience with the game was generally good, and I found several of the songs to be rather catchy, a lot of my friends could not wait for it to be turned off, or better yet, broken in half.

If you can get into the music then there’s actually quite a lot for you to do in Technic Beats. The arcade mode is probably the easiest to get into, and the one that you’ll likely come back to more than any other. Depending on the difficulty you select, you just jump in, pick a song, and try to make a new high score. You can also choose from a channel of music that will increase in difficulty until you eventually beat it. Since there are some 85 songs to dig through, the arcade mode will have you playing for some time to come with all kinds of weird song combinations.

The challenge mode allows you to earn medals by completing various challenges. They start out simple having you link a certain number of notes and other basic tasks, but soon enough these challenges amp up in difficulty making them hard for even seasoned Technic Beat players. While these challenges can be entertaining, they’re never as engrossing as actually playing the game, and most gamers will probably lose interest long before all the tasks are complete.

If you’re a fan of people telling you what they think, you can put yourself up to the level evaluation. Here the computer will judge your performance and give you a number grade that will either make you smile or one that makes you loathe the experience even more. If you’re a masochist you can check out the sudden death mode, which challenges you to complete as many songs as you can … without making a single mistake.


None of these modes alter the game in any significant way, and there are a few that are practically useless. You can challenge your friends in the two-player mode, a mode that has you battling it out for points and markers (even allowing you to steal the other player’s markers). This various is fun, but something just felt missing and the intensity of the game just didn’t hold up over long gaming sessions.

The graphics are cute and the characters are unique, but I only found one I liked, and even that one I had problems with. The real attraction to the game is the colors and effects surrounding the various levels you play in. Each has its own feel, with everything from water to a toy box. There is no shortage of things happening on screen, and it can often be overwhelming when you’re trying to pay attention to the notes. But like the characters, there aren’t enough levels and with 85 songs, it won’t take long before you’ve seen all the effects there are to see in the levels.

Technic Beats is a game that does a lot of things right, including offering a lot of music we normally wouldn’t have heard in a game like this. But with only a handful of worthwhile songs, a general lack of variety, and not a lot of game play, it’s hard to recommend something like this over Amplitude or the other music games on the market. Of course, if you’ve already grown bored of the songs in the other music games, at $15 new you could do a lot worse than Technic Beats. It does offer you a new twist on the genre, but it’s not necessarily one everybody will like.





C-
Depending on your tolerance for the music, Technic Beats is either a unique new twist on the music genre … or one of the most annoying games of all time. But beneath the obnoxious songs are a few surprises that might be worth your time and money.