Published on December 1st, 2023 | by Richard Banks
Super Crazy Rhythm Castle Review
Summary: Despite all my grumblings about Rhythm Castle's gameplay loop, after a while, I found myself thoroughly invested in seeing it through to the end. Maybe it was Stockholm Syndrome, or maybe I was simply enamored by Rhythm Castle's rich universe, but even at its most baffling, I still wanted to play on.
The days of picking up overpriced guitar-shaped peripherals and rocking out to your favourite hits are a thing of the past, but there’s still a market for music-based gaming. Beat Saber is practically a VR must-own, whilst the likes of Crypt of the Necrodancer show there’s more to rhythmic gaming than simply keeping up with today’s top hits. Super Crazy Rhythm Castle falls into the latter camp, combining the simplicity of the genre with the quirks of its indie brethren, it’s just a shame that, sometimes, it’s not sure what it’s out to achieve.
Props to Konami, though – as far as weird wonderlands go, Rhythm Castle is as inventive as they get. After arriving at the titular castle with your eyes set firmly on the throne, you and up to three friends take on increasingly bizarre missions laid out by King Ferdinand in an attempt to thwart your coup for his crown.
It wastes no time getting down to the oddness, and pretty soon, what you may think is a pretty cut-and-paste rhythm game throws endless, endless things in your way. Early levels see you switching between tracks to build minions whilst dodging enemies, while others see you aim for accuracy to score hits in an arcade-style shoot-em-up mini-game. It’s often clever stuff, especially as the music aspects are incredibly simple, boiling down to pressing between three and five buttons in time with the music.
Still, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s always fun. The game lacks control mapping, so if you aren’t happy with the input setup, you’re, unfortunately, stuck with it. Working out when to press takes a fair bit of trial and error too, as the beat doesn’t quite match up with the point when you’re meant to hit the buttons. It should be the easiest part of Rhythm Castle, but it often feels troublesome, especially when accompanied by the extra tasks each level has set up to test your skills – and these tasks can make the difficulty sway wildly. Playing the catchy ditty Hippo & Frog during a mystical summoning, for example, is an early-doors challenge in itself, but having to stop every 20 or so seconds to power up your bean launchers (not a typo) quickly becomes chaotic and makes keeping on top of the rhythm aspects nigh on impossible.
I guess that’s kind of the point, though. It’s clear the aim of Super Crazy Rhythm Castle is to create a similar co-op experience to the likes of Overcooked and Moving Out, focusing less on music-matching game clichés and more on the hectic madness these types of titles are notorious for summoning. But part of the joy of playing, say, Overcooked is getting a satisfying payoff when nailing a particularly difficult level, and unfortunately, I rarely felt that with Rhythm Castle. It’s mainly because playing with a friend doesn’t always seem to benefit how levels pan out. Playing as a twosome felt no different to playing solo, and most of the time we ended up completing the same tasks rather than doing things that complimented each other’s performance.
But despite often finding myself at war with Rhythm Castle’s most basic functions, I still found myself drawn to the world Konami has curated. Across the game’s thirty or so missions, I found myself falling in love with the game’s art style, I relished in the light puzzles and fetch quests in the game’s overworld – I adored meeting the ridiculous kooky inhabitants the Castle has to offer. It’s a world jam-packed with character and genuinely funny writing, with jokes that never overstayed their welcome even when I found the game incredibly frustrating.
I even began to enjoy some of the game’s songs. As previously mentioned, don’t expect chart-topping hits here, instead, its playlist is a curated list of music from artists and musicians from all walks of life, from all across the world. In a way, it’s something that works quite well for Rhythm Castle – there’s less emphasis on what songs you’re playing along to and more focus on making these songs fit the task at hand. Punchy punk accompanies lightning-fast spinning maps, while polka-pop echoes throughout ridiculously random boss fights. Granted, the music is usually as silly as the rest of the game, but it compliments the package perfectly. There’s even a selection of Konami classics hidden away in the depths of Rhythm Castle, and I spent more time than I’m proud of trying to perfect some recognisable Castlevania beats.
Despite all my grumblings about Rhythm Castle’s gameplay loop, after a while, I found myself thoroughly invested in seeing it through to the end. Maybe it was Stockholm Syndrome, or maybe I was simply enamored by Rhythm Castle’s rich universe, but even at its most baffling, I still wanted to play on. I started going back to levels I’d previously struggled with to see if I could beat my score. I found songs I, well, actually quite liked that I wanted to nail. There’s just something so weirdly addictive in Super Crazy Rhythm Castle’s bizarre little world that I found myself coming back again and again.
And perhaps that’s what Super Crazy Rhythm Castle is all about. After all, if you’ve ever picked up any game in, say, the Katamari series for example, or jumped into the world of WarioWare, there are faults aplenty, but these types of series aren’t bothered if they’re perfect. They’re zany, often ridiculous, but they have one aim in mind – they just want you to have fun. Sure, there are problems with Rhythm Castle, some more glaring than others, but at its heart, it’s a ridiculous and mostly fun time that doesn’t take itself too seriously – and I guess that’s all we can ask for sometimes.