What if I were to tell you that there was a game that mashes up rhythm dance games like Dance Dance Revolution with a classic active-time-battle RPG? Well, if this was a few years ago, you'd look at me and reply with, "Say whaaaaat?" (because that's what all the cool kids were saying in 2010, you see.) But, since it is indeed 2017, and there have been a couple of games that have tried this—such as Before the Echo and Sequence—it's not so much of a surprise at this point. And although those games are great in their own right, the game that basically brought this wacky fusion to a whole new level was The Metronomicon. Having met with rave (see what I did there?) reviews on Steam and a decent score on Metacritic, The Metronomicon showed the world that yes, two diametrically opposed genres can absolutely join together in a perfect marriage of high-energy-party-meets-grind-heavy-min-max-fantasy-RPG. With the introduction of a slew of new features in The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor, that experience is only taken to the next level.
The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor introduces a bunch of new features to the base game: new, unlockable characters that follow a basic job system, new and improved challenges, and best of all, a local multiplayer mode, perfect for your next all-night dance party. The hub still contains the Arena for some intense challenges, unlockable special features such as the school (a very useful tool to improve your team) and of course, the DJ, because sometimes you just want to kick back and listen to the ear-worm-inducing soundtrack without all the hassle of actually playing the game. The sound track features the likes of DJ Cutman, Mega Ran, and exclusive tracks from Shiny Toy Guns and Viking Guitar. Now, I can't speak too much about the DJ station other than it plays the songs you've unlocked quite well because I much preferred playing the game to listening to the music and twiddling my thumbs.
If you've played the original version, The Metronomicon, you won't notice much of a change in the story mode. It's graduation day for a rag-tag group of "rhythmic combat arts" masters. Each one falls into your basic RPG/high school archetype: Wade, the muscle head jock-warrior, Gwen, the straight-laced, by-the-books paladin, Clark the play-boy healer (yes, it's an odd choice, but it makes sense if you really think about it), and finally Violet, the punk rock art student mage. Yes, they are very two-dimensional, and yes, they don't really grow much beyond the basic stereotypes, but let's be real: the whole game is one giant party. We're not on this wild journey for depth of character; we're here to dance!
Anyway, our club-kid heroes are tasked with saving the world from equally adept dancing monsters ranging from furry, legwarmer-wearing raver lizards to sparkle witches and hipster octopuses (yes, the plural form of "octopus" is "octopuses"). Players will lead their #squadgoals mascots through various disco forests, Burning Man-esque canyons, party-cruise pirate ships, and finally, the greatest venue of all: the Moon. Through appropriately tone-matching, colourful, flo-glow, cartoony landscapes, with a total of eight characters to unlock, The Metronomicon leads players through a relatively basic "Be the hero; save the world!" story. Again, this is not really a knock on the game, just don't expect an existential breakthrough once you've completed the story. Do expect some cute references to club culture and nods to people you have definitely had a not-so-sober conversation with at 3 a.m. at some point in your life.
It's pretty clear that the story and characters are simply the garnish to this dish. The meat of The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor really comes from the gameplay. Players select four members of their party to engage in dance-magic battles against the hoards of monsters that attack them throughout the duration of each song. Like Dance Dance Revolution, you select a track from a list of songs that make up each chapter of the story. Throughout the song, monsters dance in from the right and deliver devastating attacks and debuffs that change the way your arrows come down the screen (change their colour, make them spin, make them appear at the last second) against your characters. If you take too long to defeat each one, they'll call in their buddies to help them out. At random a point in the song, a Boss monster will appear who will give you a special bonus if you manage to beat it by the end of the song. In order to attack, players must beat-match the onslaught of arrows that travel down the path above each character for a series of streaks that initiate various attacks, buff and debuffs, spells, and healing techniques.
As every character in The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor has a specific set of abilities, you have to carefully select your party, their abilities, and hone your strategy as you switch through characters on the fly while you wait for each character's ability to cool down. This sounds really complicated, but honestly, the learning curve is pretty shallow. With a little bit of practice, it didn't take me (or
the people I made sit down and play with me my friends) long to become pretty adept at swapping through the party and completing combos in order to reach the desired tier for casting a spell or an attack.
The hardest part was keeping track of everything going on on the screen. Now, a lot has improved with Slay the Dance Floor since I saw an early build of The Metronomicon back at PAX East in 2014, but there was still a lot to take in. The party's health bar takes up the left edge of the screen, while the enemy's health bar, which changes with each enemy to show their ruling element—crucial info for unleashing critical hits—takes up the right of the screen. The top of the screen shows the tiers of magic each character has hit, along with what their attacks are, the timer, beat-streak count, and special attack meter. Oh, and there are arrows flying everywhere and everyone is dancing on-screen at all times. Also, every once in a while a random party-goer will pop up and dance across the screen. By the end of my first song, I felt like I usually do the morning after a night at the club. I mean, you get used to it, but it's really disorienting at first.
With the addition of local co-op multiplayer in The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor, a lot of those issues are alleviated as you can divide and conquer the screen with one other player. The multiplayer aspect is definitely where Slay the Dance Floor shines. It's just a lot more fun to split the party between me and
my mom a partner, talk strategy, and groan and throw controllers after trying to complete a song for the tenth time (which, of course, felt ooooh so good once we beat it). As a side note: I'm really happy to see that the local co-op game is coming back. I definitely count The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor among games like Broforce and Overcooked as a top notch co-op game.
The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor also added an Endless Mode, which throws you and a party of your choice into an endless succession of songs and the resulting monster battles as a reward for beating the Story Mode. And by reward, I mean punishment. And by punishment, I mean I cannot tell you what happens past the first song because I could barely finish one. It's a great incentive to go through the other challenges and side-quests in the game to grind your characters' levels and abilities and find stat-boosting gear, which is great, because we all know that's the best part of an RPG. If it's not your favourite part, first, you're wrong, and second, you can still have fun going back to the main screen and playing through songs you've already unlocked. It's just nice to see that there is a lot of replayability to this game through the means of greater challenges.
If you're looking to unlock your inner D&D dance machine, look no further than The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor. If you're feeling really ambitious, you can whip out your old DDR dance mats or Rockband 4 guitars. You know, really get immersed in the whole party style. Just be prepared for some humbling gameplay and to come away singing the songs for days on end.