Old School Musical appears to be a fairly simple adventure game from the outside but, similar to the plot of the game, its looks can be very deceiving. Players can expect to dive into this retro-style rhythm game packed with fun, adventure, and nostalgia that is more than meets the eye.
In Old School Musical you play as Tib and Rob, two brothers who have been tormented and trained by their relentless mother for years. After one of her tirades, the two attempt to escape from their home and find a safer life. But as these brothers soon find out, their world is a lot stranger than they bargained for. Tib and Rob discover they might be more than just ordinary brothers as they find themselves traveling through glitches into other worlds.
As the brothers explore the unknown, they realize that they must travel through different worlds to try and find their mother once again. But these are no ordinary worlds, as each area is glitched and themed to be just like an iconic game from the past. From Mega Man inspired costumes to adventures through an abandoned city that is reminiscent of The Last of Us, this game does a great job paying tribute to popular games from the past. Old School Musical also does a good job of integrating music inspired by these games.
Something to note about myself: I am absolutely terrible at rhythm games. As much as I want to play them, I never can fully grasp the controls and eventually get too frustrated to continue. Old School Musical is the exception to this rule, thanks to the game’s easy to understand gameplay mechanics and the on-screen prompts perfectly matching the actual beat. Gameplay happens solely by following rhythm patterns which help Tib and Rob walk on paths and defeat enemies. A health bar sits at the top left of the screen, and you lose health every time you mess up a note. There are difficulty settings before every new world including Easy, Normal, and Hard, which are all true to their names. Altogether, the gameplay feels fun and seamless, and even the worst rhythm game player could figure it out.
Part of the joy of playing Old School Musical is the ease of use on the Switch. Having the ability to take a rhythm game anywhere adds to its accessibility. It is simple enough to pick up and play a quick level when you have a few minutes to spare and the experience is just as great with the Switch docked at home. The controls allow for seamless play with the Joy Cons which have been tricky for other games to work with.
The writing is a delight to experience as Tib, Rob, and other NPCs in the game are quick-witted and always ready for a joke. As a wonderful addition, there is a post-game world dedicated to fighting chickens for many, many levels. Old School Musical never takes itself too seriously as an adventure game and contains light-hearted moments at every corner. The main story feels a little short in part due to the length of the levels. While the plot itself isn’t too deep, the story still wraps up nicely in the end and left me with a smile on my face.
Graphically, Old School Musical has something very unique going on. Yes, the overall style is that of the simple, classic games it was inspired by. There is a level of detail that allows the levels to reference classic games while being a unique experience. One of the trickier things about the visuals is that many times the notes covered the scene. This isn’t a huge issue because rhythm games require almost all attention to be on the notes, but it would have been nice to see some scenes in more detail while playing. For the most part, however, the balance between scenes and notes is great and didn’t make this as big of an issue as it could have been.
The visual elements of this game really shine in the post-game levels. These fun additions include extra challenges such as a dark tunnel filter to block out in-coming notes and extreme pixilation that makes the types of notes nearly impossible to see. All of the visuals in the game feel deliberate and important, adding to a very complete experience.
Now, what would a rhythm game be without its music? Old School Musical really brings together the entire experience with a fantastic soundtrack that makes the game fun to play and listen to. The songs on the soundtrack that are inspired by popular classics are still unique enough to stand on their own. There are also some unique, original songs in the game that fit the overall theme very well. For such a packed soundtrack there is not a single song that feels out of place.
Old School Musical is the best rhythm game I’ve had the joy of playing. It was easy to understand, challenging enough to keep me interested and gave me a new look on the concept of adventure games and how they can combine with other genres. The writing and comedy kept me invested in the story and the gameplay never felt frustrating. While a game this fun to play deserves to be a little longer, it feels easily replayable. Old School Musical is the perfect rhythm game for Switch given how easy it is to play in small or long sessions, and how easy the controls are to use on a Joy Con. You might not have thought the world needed a retro-inspired, comedic rhythm adventure game, but Old School Musical shows us that it was definitely necessary.
Michelle reviewed Old School Music on Switch using a code provided by the developer.