Friday, 23 January 2015

Procrastination Station: Melody's Escape

Shocking!  I finally managed to find some time to sit, re-familiarise myself with the game and record some footage!

What's the game?

Today's Procrastination Station timesink is Melody's Escape a music-based indie platformer.  It's currently listed as an "Early Access Game" but in the developer's words it's "almost feature-complete and is in a very stable state."  There's no demo available.

When it came up on my recommended list on Steam I was intrigued by the gameplay videos, particularly as at the time Sixteen was my sole computer and there was no demo available for me to try and see if it'd work.  It was cheap enough (£6.99), however, that I felt inclined to take a punt on it nonetheless.

I then had to turn most of the settings off.  It ran, yes, but it was slow and jerky until almost all the settings were off or lowered (such as the background affected by the music, the rain in the walking sections etc.), then it ran nicely.  With the exception of the hair dynamics.  That didn't go so well; it actually slowed the game down more with it off, but on didn't seem to make a difference.  The irony is, once you play the game you don't miss the fancy effects you've turned off, because your attention is solely focused on hitting the next button.  Since I've been playing it on Echo with all the fancy effects on again, I've still not noticed them.

Honestly, watching the video I recorded above is the first time I've actually paid attention to anything in the game beyond hitting the next key.  I didn't realise, watching it back, just how fast it seems--it doesn't feel as fast when you're playing as it looks when you're watching.

There are several different difficulty settings, from Relaxing, through Medium and Intense (which is what I'm playing) to Overload.  Relaxing has everything tied to one button per section whether they're slides, jumps or the floating rings; Medium has both rings and directions in matching colours, so up is both a jump and an up on the ring.  Intense has everything split into two sections, so WASD keys control movement and the arrows keys control the rings, or vice versa, depending on your preference--mine is set for my faulty brain.  Overload is...  huh.  I personally can't keep up with Overload.

There's also a custom setting to design your own style of level and an autoplay if you just want to watch.  (Wish I'd remembered that was there before I sat and played the song myself.)

Note, though: it's possibly not best to start out with Relaxing and move through the difficulties.  Each step up has a learning curve that can be frustrating if you don't persevere with it, and persevering can feel more like work than play to start with.

And what have I actually learned about my characters by procrastinating with this game?

A surprisingly large amount actually.  For me, this kind of game is best played without engaging the brain, because if I think about the oncoming colours and directions I'm guaranteed to press the wrong button entirely.  Accordingly, that makes it perfect for rooting out plot problems while listening to songs that inspire the stories, or in some cases realising which songs make perfect character themes (and then playing them to death).

I managed to work out some of the early kinks of Corliss's appearance in The Rose Queen by playing a lot of Machinae Supremacy as well as giving myself a boost to get a move on with a scene between RQ and Fayth by playing Celldweller's Heart On.  (Yes, it is likely pretty much what you're thinking.  Yes it suits them perfectly.)  It's also helped somewhat with Dust & Ash through a zen-like playthrough of two albums by The Pierces--though it's not helped with actually plotting the bloody thing--and it let me scrape my brain clean during the early stages of The Reconstruction of Kirill.  (What do you mean I'm still in the early stages now?  Shush.)

Will it help for anyone else?  I have no idea, but if you're one of those people who can only play rhythm and dance games by not thinking about what you're doing rather than focusing on the upcoming moves, then it's a nice way to relax and think about other things at the same time.  Choose a setting, pick your song or set your playlist, and off you go.  Just... try not to get too engrossed so you forget to write.  Or competitive.  Just because there's no centralised scoreboard doesn't stop you from wanting to get a Perfect rating or two or three or four...

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