By Isaac Espinosa
It’s not just a rhythm-based music game. So get ready. Combat is key as you travel through many worlds that will appear somehow familiar to gamers. Old School Musical, developed by the indie developer La Moutarde and published by Playdius, sports an upbeat soundtrack and an intense rhythm system. The game keeps players on their toes as they try to keep up as each song begins to continuously increase in tempo.
In Old School Musical, you walk in the shoes of Tib and Rob, two mysterious characters who were trained by their mother in rhythm-based combat throughout their early lives. However, when it turns out that their Mother has gone missing, and glitches begin to spread throughout their world that follow them everywhere they go, it’s up to Tib and Rob to locate their missing Mom and find out the source of the glitches. These glitches, when Tib and Rob begin to explore other worlds, begin to slowly tear those worlds apart until there isn’t any remnant of it left.
Old School Musical’s charm stems from the fact that it sends the player on a journey filled with humor and nostalgia, with every world Tib and Rob visit being a reference to a popular old video game title. You’ll get references to NES and SNES games Mega Man, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Contra and Pokémon. This “traveling through worlds” aspect of the adventure allows Tib and Rob to make some very humorous commentary about the people they encounter, poking fun at the way the inhabitants of each world speak, and the clothes that they wear. These change as the worlds change, along with the styles of the visuals and the music. For some worlds, such as the ones based on Mega Man and Contra, the upbeat techno soundtrack starts up fast and maintains that same speed, requiring on-point reactions so you can stay with the rhythm. But for some levels, such as the tutorials, the fast-paced rhythm builds up over time, arriving at maximum speed in the later stages of the song. In terms of visuals, the game varies between 8-bit and 16-bit, and never goes over that graphic boundary. But rather than detracting from OSM’s charm, this just increases its appeal, because of the nostalgia factor.
While Old School Musical is a very solid title from a visual and gameplay aspect, it does not exactly have a strong story. It’s not actually bad, but it’s not that interesting. And while I was surprised by the idea that Tib and Rob were secretly prophesied heroes that were always meant to save the world, that didn’t necessarily add any kind of depth or impact to the story, and especially not to the way I played the game.
Despite its weakness, Old School Musical is a very solid indie game that is able to immerse the player in its rhythm-based gameplay, which combines seamlessly with its upbeat techno soundtrack. The player just wants more and more. And while the story needs some variety and deeper meaning, so that the players would care more about the worlds they visit, it is only a blemish on what is, overall, a great game.
Isaac Espinosa is a New York Videogame Critics Circle Intern. He’s the founder of the Lehman College Videogame Critics Circle.