We got another look at A Musical Story during the Day of the Devs event, one of what can now be considered a generation of absorbing rhythm games like Unbeatable or Sayonara Wild Hearts that aspire to convey a story rather than give you mainly disconnected stages and songs to jam through. It’s fascinating since AMS’s eye-catching visual design and music are intimately related to the tale it wishes to communicate.
It all starts with a man in a hospital bed, apparently gasping his dying breaths. The tutorial is the only time the game will speak directly to you, although A Musical Story’s gameplay is straightforward enough that even the introduction may be done with few words. The first song is set to the beat of a beeping cardiac monitor, which is both horrible and yet cool.
The controls are straightforward: sounds, such as a plucked guitar string or a hit synth note, respond to either the left or right arrow on your keyboard, often both at once. You must, of course, hold the button down for longer notes, but that’s it—this is a game about preserving the beat and not much else. Each song is divided into multiple sections. On the screen, you see a looping sequence, and you must complete it correctly before being shown one of the guitarist’s memories as a reward. A Musical Story plays each musical sequence once before asking you to repeat it, and if you make a mistake, the music smoothly repeats: you won’t be booted out and forced to restart, which I found really enjoyable. It’s just one big wonderful loop. But, because each sequence is so brief, and you’re not compelled to stop until you get it perfect, as previously said, I didn’t find it that difficult to keep trying.
A Musical Story is an entirely nonverbal game in which the images do the majority of the work. It’s bright and lightly animated, yet it depicts the brilliant, psychedelic imagery of the 1970s. It’s out of this world in more ways than one—in one scene, the musician sits in front of his TV in nothing but his underwear, smoking a massive spliff and seeing strange things in the smoke. That was the era. You can also watch him jamming with his band and their eventual intention to play at Pinewood, a large Woodstock-style festival. It’s not a major plot twist, at least not in the demo, but this is a person reliving his favorite moments on his deathbed, so I’ll give him some leeway. I’m sure we’ll find out what finally got to him throughout the course of the entire game.
A Musical Story appears to be a very laid-back affair from the demo, possibly too simple for rhythm game veterans but a decent match for anyone who wants to listen to some funk and enjoy some undemanding gameplay to go with it. That is if you can keep the beat better than I can. Even if it isn’t, this isn’t a game that will cause you to angrily quit. You’re more inclined to relax and groove, maaan.
A Musical Story does not yet have a release date, but you may try out the sample on Steam.