Mevo and the Grooveriders
Before we begin the review proper, a quick word of warning: This game may induce the urge to grow an afro or purchase bell-bottomed pants. You have been warned.
Mevo and the Grooveriders is a funky music game that'll get your fingers a-snappin' and your toes a-tappin' (and your lips a-chappin' and your GPS a-mappin'?). You play as Mevo, a red alien that needs to reunite his band to save the universe from perpetual silence. (And the cats a-nappin'? Sorry, I'm done with that now.)
To get started, grab your mouse or your keyboard, although you're only going to need two buttons to play. As Mevo jogs along the course trying to find his band mates, create music by tapping the left and right buttons when you come upon the corresponding notes. (The keyboard default is the left and right [shift] keys, while the mouse uses the... well, left and right mouse button.) Blue left-pointing arrows mean you hit your chosen "left" button, and yellow right-pointing arrows mean you hit your chosen "right". It's as simple as that, just like a two-button version of Dance Dance Revolution.
As the music plays you create your groove by popping the note bubbles as you run down a long path. The feeling of jumping from platform to platform feels like you're racing Mario to the end of a level, except you can't hit the brakes and go back for those missed notes. In fact, missed notes chip away at your life, and some notes can cost you five units of life— a pretty steep penalty, considering you only have twenty to begin with. Eventually you have the ability to choose your own path, with the upper path often being much more difficult than the lower, but taking the upper path and mastering the groove laid down up there can net you higher combos, more points, and even some unlockable items.
Each of the fifteen levels gets a bit trickier, throwing in some new twists like double arrows (hit both keys) and combo chains that unlock bonus paths and bonus Funk (for shopping, more on that later). Completing levels with certain requirements also gets you Gruvs, which unlock future levels. As you trek through the jungle, sail through the ocean, and fly through outer space, you'll reunite your band and bring funky music back to the universe. And look oh so fine while doing it.
Analysis: If you haven't gotten down in a long time, Mevo's an excellent game to help you build your groove back up. Unfortunately, it's unlikely you'll hear any of the songs from Mevo and the Groovebenders during the Super 70's Hour on the radio station, since they all seem to have been made for this game. It's a shame though, they could have had some fun with Mevo running around to the tune of The Spinners' "The Rubberband Man" or Earth, Wind & Fire's "September". But that'd cost a whole bunch more for royalties and extra 'fro picks and such.
One thing that separates this game from most music-tapping games like DDR or Guitar Hero is that Mevo doesn't have any system to indicate meter within the flying notes. In other words, you don't see any lines that show you whether what you're playing is on the beat or some odd syncopation. If you can get the hang of the funky rhythms early, you'll be golden, otherwise you'll have some troubles as early as the first tutorial level.
If you can cope with syncopation, the songs and challenges are at a reasonable level, offering an attainable goal without being overly simplistic. If some of the combo or points challenges are giving you some trouble, you can use your collected Funk to buy outfits and dances for Mevo. Depending on what outfit you're wearing when you enter a level, you can get power-ups that can help you crack some of the tougher challenges. This addition of the shopping feature adds some replayability to the game, as some outfits can only be unlocked by finding them directly in the levels themselves.
Unfortunately, one of the stumbling blocks of this game is the play area itself. You're controlling a man that runs along a path and jumps from platform to platform while gathering notes, but when you make extra-high jumps, you often can't see what notes you have to press when you land until it's too late. Also, the environment you're traversing "reacts" to how you move through it (for example, some pillars crumble right before you get to them, and platforms might raise or lower as you move over them), but these sudden changes in the world might reveal notes that you didn't see before, and likely missed because they showed up too late. These reflex-testing notes keep you on your feet, but more in a frustrating way, especially when trying to rack up a large combo.
A few minor issues aside, it's all gooooooood. It's hard not to feel the funky love grooving your way through the levels and making the music that saves the world. If you're ready for a good jam session, give Mevo and his crew a call.