Side-scrolling platformers and rhythm games are two genres with plenty of iconic titles, but it’s a rare sight to see a game that fuses elements of both. Outside of the fun Bit.Trip series, I honestly can’t think of any others. Developer Seaven Studio is out to change that, though, with their intriguing indie title Inside My Radio, a platformer that incorporates rhythm elements into its core gameplay mechanics. The result is a novel game with some solid ideas, but various flaws hold it back from truly standing out.
The intro sees what appears to be a green ghost getting sucked into a stationary boom box, and tasked with clearing the box’s inside of a strange infestation, which ultimately turns out to be a bunch of robotic spiders. We never get an actual explanation for where the spiders came from or what they’re trying to do, but we do get to meet two other inhabitants of the box. The game is actually split into thirds featuring playable levels for all three allies, which also provide different musical styles (Techno, rock, and funk) depending on who you’re playing as.
In terms of movement, characters can freely be moved left and right, but all other moves have to have their button input done to the beat of the current background music. The timed moves include jumping, dashing, creating a musical pulse to activate certain stage elements, and head-butting the floor to break through platforms.
This mechanics actually works pretty well, especially thanks to constant on-screen pulses and an optional metronome-like meter that can both be used to gauge when the next beat is. There are still certain points of the game that will probably require several attempts, but generous checkpoint placement and unlimited lives help stem possible frustration.
In terms of presentation, the geometrical, neon-tinged world of the game looks nice and goes well with the minimalist character design where characters are all represented as squares with various accessories. Unfortunately, for a title with a heavy focus on music and rhythm, the actual soundtrack is surprisingly bland and forgettable, which feels like a major missed opportunity.
As far as level design, goes there are quite a few creative and memorable bits, like a switching mechanic in one level that changes how you must navigate certain sections, and a section where you must avoid enemies who also shift their positions to the beat of the soundtrack. Still, there are a few sections that don’t work, like a tedious maze section that could be plopped into any game. The final boss fight also goes on too long and lacks any checkpoints, making it one of the few true frustrating moments.
While there’s dialog and story sprinkled throughout the game, it’s completely vanilla and forgettable. A weird decision that I didn’t think truly worked was a smattering of pop culture references. A few, like a hidden cameo of a Daft Punk-inspired duo, fit the game’s nature, but others, like finding the seven Dragon Balls hidden in a level or a Guardians of the Galaxy nod, feel really forced, out of place, and unfunny.
The biggest drawback to Inside My Radio, though, has to be the length. I finished the campaign in less than three hours, and there’s little incentive to revisit it other than some optional achievements. A Time Attack mode is also unlockable, and while it’s a decent diversion, there’s no denying that an extended main mode would be preferable. Considering the fact that the game costs $14.99 to download results in a feeling that players won’t get enough bang for their buck.
Ultimately, Inside My Radio feels novel but slight. I think the mixture of platform and rhythm elements works pretty well, but other elements don’t quite click, and the asking price when compared to the overall length feels pretty criminal. It’s the kind of game that is best saved for a sale or price drop, as it’s a novel diversion, but also a flawed one that’s over before you know it.
This review is based on the Xbox One version, which was provided to us.
Inside My Radio has some solid mechanics that successfully fuse rhythm and platforming, but a mixed presentation and a criminally short length prevent it from being truly noteworthy.