I gotta be honest: your Spotify playlist stinks. You need to mix things up. Allow Rytmos, the new puzzle game by Floppy Club, to satisfy your tonal taste buds. How about some Ethiopian Jazz, or Daedalic Japanese Environmental music? Rytmos will have you expanding your musical tastes as well as expanding your mind with the tricky puzzles it offers.
The gameplay in Rytmos is straightforward: create a path that touches all the musical pillars and loops back to the start. The simple gameplay actions and goal allows for creative and puzzling game scenarios. Each level slowly compounds itself in difficulty, first teaching you the basic mechanics or the new obstacle you have to overcome, then building on the difficulty throughout. Some levels are straightforward because of the limited number of possibilities you can perform, allowing you to brute-force your way through them. Other puzzles can be a bit more challenging, especially the ice cube ones. The ice cubes are blocks you can move around the area to help you create the proper path. Because the ice cube is controlled by you and is not a static obstacle in the game, there is more challenge from the variable choices. That being said, none of the puzzles are overtly challenging. I finished the game in less than three hours. It takes a lot of similarities to Monument Valley by UsTwo Games, with its ominous, brutalist, squared-off geometric level design.
The charm isn’t in the puzzles themselves, though, it is the interesting art decisions and music that transforms throughout the game. The gameplay portion of Rytmos is considered “abstract,” as it’s just a disc sliding around the surface. Having abstract gameplay allows the designers to make the surrounding theme be whatever they feel like. Disappointingly, this means that the puzzles don’t directly affect the theme, giving the gameplay loose ties to its topic. The topic itself, however, is wonderful (at least I think it is).
Rymos involves a shattered solar system, where you solve puzzles on planets to repair the universe back together. The theme plays along with the idea of “Music of the Spheres,” where the structure of music is visible in the tangible world. Spinning like solar systems of planets are vinyl records, which house the music that we enjoy. The end of each level is capped off with a sleeving of a record and tossing into a record box. Each small “level” or series of puzzles are based around one genre of music, with each planet revealing an instrument that is used with that genre. The naming and graphics reflect the visual art of that genre, tying all aspects of the game together. While the puzzles are short and sweet, you can get lost in time with the jam session that happens at the ends of levels. When a new instrument is revealed, you can strum strings or play notes on your keyboard and play it on a loop track along with the ambivalent, music background.
Rytmos is also a teaching tool. Having gone through music school myself, I learned more interesting facts about music from around the world than I did in school. After giving facts or name-dropping specific artists a link is provided to check out a webpage that goes into depth about the music that inspired the level’s theme. The webpage shows videos of the music being played, as well as a curated playlist. What’s unfortunate about these playlists is that they’re all marked as private, so it’s more of a challenge to bring it up on my phone than it should. That being said, I will most definitely check out some of the new music that is referenced in the game.
While few, Rytmos isn’t without its flaws. The biggest problem is the user interface. There are many times where the screen presents an image in front of you and expects you to click on it without prompting you to do so. Multiple times I was presented with the opening to the level series and didn’t know how to actually start playing the level. Reading through text in the game is also finicky. Each level starts with a couple blocks of text, but to scroll through the paragraphs you have to click on the text and drag it across to the next paragraph. If you happen to move your mouse off the text section while dragging, the whole planet menu will close out, having you repeatedly open and close it. Where the mouse is also becomes a problem in the gameplay, where it confuses if you’re trying to click on the disc to draw the track or move level elements around.
The music and sounds in Rytmos are obviously top-notch. If you were going to create a game about music, you better have good sounds in your game (see my past reviews for Battle Bands and Power Chord for failed attempts). The jam session at the end offers notes that will always fit within the given chord of the backtrack music. Trying to record the notes doesn’t work the greatest, however, as it locks it into 16th notes (so you can’t play true triplets), making the recording not super interesting, but the effort is still appreciated. Sound design makes the interactions satisfying and provides positive feedback to the player.
Rytmos’s art is also great, but it’s possible that the intense color it has can be a problem with colorblind people and those with epilepsy. The art triggers my user experience alarms because the names of the planets are basically unreadable, with the fonts distorted and warped incomprehensibly. I understand the point isn’t to read it, it’s supposed to mimic the art of the genre. Some level art, especially the series on Hawaiian instruments, were particularly difficult to look at. The patterns that were chosen were complicated, obnoxiously bright, and took up too much graphical energy where the game looked like it was stuttering.
In summary, simple gameplay leads the way to challenging puzzles in Rytmos. There is wonderful music and ways to explore creatively in the genre while also learning new things about the world.
Jordan played Rytmos on PC through a Steam code provided by the developer. It is also available for Nintendo Switch.