By Steven Wright
Fret Nice plays more like an indie game than a full price arcade game. It even looks like an indie game, which is not to mean it has poor graphics, but a unique art-style. It’s not only the art direction that is special but also the controls, as you use a guitar rather than a pad, which for a platformer is a little odd to say the least.
The premise is simple enough, with a flick of the guitar neck to jump while using the frets to move back and forth, but does it work? When you’re in the air you play the notes to take out the enemies, but it’s more complex and genuinely confusing than that, as you have to play certain notes to eliminate the different opponents. The enemies are all variations of the same little black-blob-monster-thing, each one having a different number of eyes, ears, horns and what not – like a monster based Mr Potato Head. For example: if you come against a three eyed, two nosed, one mouthed blob-thing then you will have to jump, play a fret three times to pop the eyes then switch to a different fret for the nose and so on – confusing, no?
It may be a good idea on paper, but when you’re playing it, all the while being attacked by multiple enemies, then it quickly becomes a thrash solo as you just slam all the fret’s in a panic to survive. Even the simple idea of swinging the neck to jump has its issues, as anyone who has tried to initiate Star Power on Guitar Hero will know. Even when it does work it’s an uncomfortable motion to pull off when your settled in your selected abode – I could have stood up, yes, but I’m a creature of comfort.
The only two memorable levels involved you using grav-jumps to keep your character in the air, and a frantic Indiana Jones escape from a boulder blob-thing on a rail cart, neither relying on the flawed jumping. The major annoyance with the game came when I got completely stuck after completing three levels; I could not unlock the fourth, it told me I needed a green thing, but what is the green thing and how do I get it? Unique art styles are one thing, but when they get in the way of you progressing in the game, then maybe you need to simplify things a little.
The level design does salvage a lot of what the games mechanics lose, however, as everything is vibrant and wonderfully imaginative. As you progress you have to collect little rainbow coloured musical notes that are scattered throughout, some within a guitar-flicks reach while others will take awhile to work out. The two playable characters are customisable with a variety of hair and clothes options. When you slay the enemies, words burst in the air in brilliant explosive typography, saying “RAWWWR” or “KA-BLAMM” or something else suitably fun. But sadly, with a lack of memorable music, the audio does not match the visuals.
If the games mechanics were more polished and matched the games pop-surrealist style, then it would have created a captivating game. You still have to admire the developers for trying something fresh, maybe their next title will be more of a complete package, and not the wonderfully colourful confusion that is Fret Nice.