Muse Dash is an anime-themed rhythm game. It combines the ideas of traditional music games with aspects such as enemies, health bars and earning abilities.
The game can be purchased on Steam (PC), Nintendo Switch and for mobile devices. The Nintendo Switch version could be considered a complete edition with significantly more songs, but the other versions are separated into a base game for a lower price and DLC music packs. This review is based on my experience playing the Steam version of the base game.
In this game, the player dashes through 40 stages, taking out enemies, dodging obstacles and collecting points while trying to survive to the end of the level. This is all done to upbeat music, most often Chinese pop.
The basic gameplay of Muse Dash is fairly simple. Your character constantly runs while you use two buttons or keys to control them. One brings you to the ground level and attacks, while the other has the character jump and perform an air attack. Most of the time you just use these to attack enemies or dodge obstacles. Occasionally you may need to hold one, press both together or quickly press both repeatedly for certain enemies. Running into the obstacles or enemies depletes the health bar. The amount of enemies and obstacles which appear depends on the difficulty mode.
There are three difficulty modes. Easy, Hard and Master. Not all stages have Master difficulty, but those which do require it to be unlocked by earning an S-rank on the hard mode of that stage first. I found that the difficulty levels were fairly distinct, which each being a big leap up from the previous one. I’d suggest that the difficulty level is aimed towards casual rhythm game players as even the highest difficulty levels felt easy to pass and reasonably difficult but not impossible for a decent player to get a high rank. Bonus footage of my first attempt at Master difficulty can be found here. It didn’t go well.
As your character runs, two circles are shown in front of them at all times. These help you target enemies more precisely. Hitting an enemy with enough precision awards a perfect score for that enemy. The rank is awarded at the end of the level and based on your precision, combo and other factors. I was surprised to find that the S-rank was only obtainable with a high percentage of perfect scores. One time I full cleared a level with 85% perfect and 15% great hits on the enemies, but only achieved an A-rank. While not explained in game, it seems like 90% or above of enemies need to be cleared with a perfect for an S-rank, regardless of other factors of the score.
The game can be played with a keyboard, mouse or controller. Personally, I found that the control scheme used affected my score significantly. Using a keyboard was comfortable enough, but I did much better with a mouse or controller. Then when I disregarded the game’s controller tutorial which told me to press ‘X’ and ‘Right D-Pad’ on my Xbox controller and instead used the left and right triggers, my score increased significantly. I went from taking 3 – 5 attempts to get an ‘S-rank’ on hard mode to often doing it first time and occasionally even with a full clear.
As you complete stages in the game, you gain experience. With enough experience, you level up. This unlocks further stages in the game and grants you items. Collecting enough of a particular item unlocks either a character or an Elfin, depending on the item.
There are a total of fourteen different characters, all with different abilities – sort of. Each character skill set and design is unique, but it is actually three characters in different costumes. While each character ability is unique, most broadly fall into one of two categories: increase or protect your overall score or live longer. For example, Joker Buro gets higher scores for combos over 60/70, while Schoolgirl Buro becomes invincible during fever mode.
Elfins are small companions which grant extra abilities. There are eight different Elfins. Their abilities are similar to the character abilities. With the right Elfin and character, you can create particularly powerful combinations.
The graphics of the game are nice, bright and of good quality for this type of game. In some of the menus, the characters are animated. Be warned that there is fanservice and jiggle physics here.
The sound quality is good throughout as would be expected of a rhythm game, but while there are a lot of songs, there isn’t a large variety in music. Much of it sounds very similar. The characters are voiced in Japanese and while they do not have many lines, they are voiced well.
I did come across some small issues. Firstly, there is a profile system for leaderboards and sharing data between the PC and mobile version. I could not log in at one point, with error messages coming up. This was not pre-release or anything along those lines.
The other issue was that some of the English translation seems to need proofreading by a native speaker or translator. It’s all understandable, but there are lines such as ‘This song is waiting for unlocked’ that show they haven’t had it translated professionally. To balance this, the game is available in English, Korean, Japanese and Chinese, though I cannot say if those translations are better.
It is worth pointing out the cost of this game. As mentioned, on PC it is separated into a base game and a DLC pack. The base game costs approximately $3, depending on your country. The amount of content for this cost is amazing. The DLC pack costs about 8x as much as the base game and adds almost twice as many stages again, so the value isn’t as good but it is still a huge addition of content.
Overall, Muse Dash is a fun rhythm game and the base game budget priced. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of customization and unlockables.
I’d recommend buying the base game to anyone who enjoys rhythm games, just due to the amount of fun to be had for the price.
MUSE DASH IS RECOMMENDED
This game can be bought here on Steam or via the Nintendo console store.
Many thanks to Terminals for providing a review code for this title on behalf of the publisher.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.