Octopuses on Steroids
Gal Metal adds an impressively robust story mode to its drumming rhythm base game. Your character, high school boy, is abducted by an alien race, the Octoids, who, in classic alien abduction style, experiment. The result? Your soul is transplanted into a girl’s body, of course! The owner of the body, Rinko, while losing control of her own motor functions, remains present, acting as your guide. Not quite sure what happens the discarded body, truth be told. Anyway, the Octoids want revenge and only way to stop them is to exploit their biggest weakness: METAL! You and your band, Kichijoji Metal Girls (K.M.G.), are the only ones who can shred these guys to hell.
The forcibly combined partners must work together to pull off a convincing performance. Rinko is K.M.G.’s regular pro-drummer but the boy controlling her body has never even sat on a stool before. It’s up to Rinko to give you the guidance you need to bring your skills up to snuff. There’s time to get into the swing of things though, with practice mode and, arguably the most fun mode, the free play mode.
Drumming up Support
The story leads you on a quest to get good at drumming in a short space of time by practising, memorising beats and taking your skills to concert battles against the Octoids. This mode is supplemented by a social sim, where you balance menial tasks with your band mates in an effort to build relationships and stats. Persona-lite, if you will. It’s silly but serves as a welcome distraction between gigs, adding some extra personality. Story elements are presented in an animated manga format in a high-quality, almost web comic feel, with the masterful sheen of professional artist, Toshinao Aoki. These work fantastically and set a fun, wacky tone that persists in the main game’s manga-like graphics.
The rest of the story, aside from some side content during the social side, is dealt with via text messages. These exchanges aren’t always as entertaining and are never particularly engrossing, with a tendency to drag on without much substance, though the quirky LINE style presentation helps lift the mood somewhat.
Using the JoyCon as drums sticks is great fun (though it feels a bit odd doing the bass pedal with an arm-swing) but there’s no getting past the lag here – even when you remove the problem of the natural HDMI/TV latency by switching to Table Top mode, it still feels a tiny bit off though certainly playable. Rather than provide the modern rhythm game staple of TV lag offset option, the game actually tells you to plug headphones in. You could use an aux connection to a speaker but it’s not ideal for a quick blast where it’s preferable to use Docked mode. To be fair, this is something they can patch in and may well do so if enough people ask.
As a party game, Gal Metal works brilliantly, with some hilariously badly timed beats coming from pretty much anyone who plays with the motion controls for the first time. Combine this with putting others off by tapping random off-beats on the couch every couple of bars, and there are plenty of laughs to be had. Fortunately, for when you want to get a decent score (or actually compete fairly), you can switch to button-mode. With buttons mapped to a full kit you can play almost any beat you can think of, while adding all the fills and flourishes you can muster.
The game excels at freestyle, if you keep the beat, you are rarely punished for adding your own spin to the music. This natural approach means that the screen isn’t filled with prompts during performance and really makes you feel like you’re driving the music. You gain the most points from keeping a steady rhythm but adding variety very few bars, pushing multipliers through the roof. There are plenty of set rhythms to learn and again, as long as you play in time, you’ll get away with mixing it up for the most part.
Pedal to the Metal
Each set beat has a quirky name to reference band names or songs of classic metal’s finest and once you start unlocking the beats, you’ll start to see the difficulty curve emerging. The toughest beats demand you memorise them completely, before you start your performance. It’s a sharp curve with the most difficult combos requiring cat-like reflexes (and anyone who can manage these with the motion controls must be god-like), often feeling more like a fighter than a rhythm game in control execution. Gal Metal allows you to sound masterful if you can nail them, but the story battles (or concerts) rarely present a challenge due to the low score requirements to progress.
So, there’s a fair amount of imbalance. I found Gal Metal’s charmingly bizarre twist to its jam session of a story mode and enjoyed the free-play mode just as much. The problem lies in the amount and quality of music. While the music is fine, it’s nothing stand out, generally putting a barebones generic metal track to a rearranged classical music piece. There are only thirteen in total and it feels like the game could have benefited from, and suited, a few anime-style pop-rock/metal tunes.
Overall Score: 7/10
Gal Metal allows for plenty of freedom and personal expression. Just forget the waggle controls after a while, or you might want to quit the band.
Formats: Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Price: £25.99 (Switch eShop)
Publisher: Marvellous Europe
Developer: DMM Games
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 02/11/2018 (Switch eShop)
Review copy provided by publisher