In my experience, smartphone games don’t often transition to consoles with much finesse; one need look no further than the clumsy big-screen execution of titles like Oceanhorn or Republique to see what I’m talking about. The trouble seems to stem from either the awkward conversion of a touch interface to physical buttons or poor remastering of low-resolution visual assets. Yet VOEZ, a beautiful rhythm game among the first additions to the Nintendo Switch library, is a rare example of a mobile port that sidesteps both of those issues with aplomb.
VOEZ takes a minimalistic approach to the rhythm genre, offering over 100 songs to immediately enjoy without the hassle of microtransactions. There’s a brief tutorial to get the player acquainted with how it works, and then it’s off to the races in a matter of seconds. A light story, conveyed through unlockable pastel comics, is the only additional content on offer. But rather than conveying a lack of substance, VOEZ is a distilled experience that benefits from its straightforwardness.
At its core, VOEZ is a game in the vein of Beatmania IIDX—or if that’s too esoteric, think Guitar Hero, but with touch controls. Notes slide down columns toward the bottom of the screen, where they must be tapped, held, or swiped to the beat of the music. Screenshots do little to convey how dynamic VOEZ looks in motion. Columns frequently shift position, change colour, and otherwise dance as the song progresses, like a laser light show custom-tweaked for every unique piece of music. Equally captivating are the varied and vibrant illustrations that serve as each song’s album art, which communicate charming micro-narratives much like Dance Dance Revolution‘s artwork did back in its heydey.
VOEZ does have a notable flaw: It doesn’t provide satisfying audio feedback during gameplay. Unlike Hatsune Miku: Project Diva or any number of its rhythm contemporaries, VOEZ doesn’t activate sound samples with successful taps. Relying on visual cues alone is a missed opportunity for a game like this to further immerse the player in the music. It also doesn’t help that many of the songs on offer are electronic pieces that can blend together, but musical taste is an entirely subjective thing, and there’s sufficient variety on the whole.
VOEZ is addictive in its relative simplicity, and has a gentle learning curve, making it easy to recommend. If nothing else, it’s a bright and breezy panacea to any Zelda-induced fatigue you may be feeling after spending weeks ambling around Hyrule.