Developed by Taito Corporation
Published by Degica Games
Reviewed on Steam (also available on iOS and arcade)
Groove Coaster for Steam is the latest iteration of Taito’s established Groove Coaster rhythm game franchise. Beginning with mobile releases and then transitioning to dedicated arcade cabinets, Groove Coaster has captivated players with its vast lineup of tunes as well as simple mechanics. These tunes include contributions by members of Taito’s legendary in-house band Zuntata, which leads to distinct electronic-infused beats. The game lives up to its namesake as it resembles a roller coaster, which provides a different take on rhythm gaming norms. With its simple inputs, catchy music, multiple difficulty levels, wide degree of customization, and high replayability, Groove Coaster for Steam is an excellent way to experience Groove Coaster’s unique take on the rhythm gaming genre.
Much like any other rhythm game, Groove Coaster involves accurately pressing buttons in order to clear each song. Players press buttons whenever a visual cue overlaps the target, and these cues are timed to the music. The key difference from other games is that the target zone actually appears to swerve around on a roller coaster-like track. This track often moves around with the beat, and it even forms complex shapes like stars and zig-zag patterns. Reacting to these patterns can be a thrilling and unpredictable experience.
The Steam release allows players to experience other versions’ varied inputs. The arcade version uses two bumper-like controllers that serve as buttons and multi-directional inputs. Players can freely map these button and directional inputs to a keyboard or a controller, which generally works quite well. Players perform single taps, holds, repeated taps, and sliding motions according to the visual cues’ different shapes and colors. One challenge is performing twin inputs with both hands, which fortunately works quite well on a keyboard or controller. However later challenges require players to perform diagonal motions in rapid sequence, which does become fairly awkward without analog sticks ready. Using a controller or keyboard is slightly less intuitive than using multi-purpose bumpers or swiping on a screen, but the game provides plenty of control freedom. The game also provides a control mode that converts dual inputs to singles, which helps facilitate accessibility.
The Steam release allows players to re-experience the arcade iterations’ audiovisual content. Its interface draws heavy inspiration from the arcade iteration Groove Coaster 3: Link Fever. Each menu consists of pleasant pastel hues with minimalist background design. The character Linka provides chirpy exuberant English voice-over as the player navigates through each of the menus. These menus contain plenty of rectangular shapes with colorful accents. With its monochrome thin roller coaster tracks and simple psychedelic backgrounds, the game has a compellingly streamlined visual style. In a nod to its origins as a vertical game, the game can either be set as a horizontal letterboxed display or as a rotated full-screen display in case players have a vertical monitor setup. These options as well as multiple aspect ratios are great to have on hand.
Groove Coaster’s song picks fortunately do not disappoint. The default list of over thirty tracks spans a wide gamut of electronic and pop-infused beats. Experiencing contributions from renown artists such as REDALiCE and Zuntata is thrilling. Many of the game’s tracks follow a high-tempo beat that mirrors the game’s roller coaster-like nature. While the game features songs that originated in previous Groove Coaster titles, the default base list lacks material from other games, licenses, and franchises. Given that prior mobile releases have been thoroughly expandable via downloadable songs, we anticipate that there will be plenty of material in the future.
Groove Coaster for Steam features a high degree of replayability. Each song features three or four difficulty levels, and higher levels expect players to perform increasingly complex tap and slide maneuvers. These maneuvers can really create new challenges for familiar material. Another whimsical mechanic is the Ad-Lib system, which allows players to discover hidden notes by pressing buttons to the beat. It can feel a little strange pressing buttons without any visual cues, but these hidden notes intuitively follow the rhythm. Players can strive for high scores and letter grades, and the game displays a leaderboard for total high scores and a comprehensive high score leaderboard for each song. Song completion grants currency that leads to unlocking helper items, songs, and avatars. Some of these avatars are familiar Taiko characters such as Bubble Bobble’s Bubblun or a Silver Hawk ship from Darius, which provides a fun little bit of fan service. However, it can take quite a bit of currency in order to actually unlock items. Fortunately, earning currency occurs naturally as players play through the wide variety of songs and difficulty levels.
The Groove Coaster series has provided plenty of thrills on mobile platforms and at the arcade, and Groove Coaster for Steam is a well-built entry. Its wide range of difficulties can provide a fun time for any rhythm game player regardless of skill level. The elegant aesthetics and diverse tunes result in a compelling experience that remains fun after repeated play.