Tapsonic has previously been a series for mobile devices developed by South Korean outfit, Neowiz. Now the latest entry to their series TAPSONIC BOLD is hitting Steam with 82 songs to choose from for a rhythm-based good time. Naturally, the person to review this series is also the person who’s a very casual rhythm game player due to having very little sense of rhythm.
The reason that I, specifically, put my hand up for this is I wanted to see where rhythm games are at since my time spent with games like Osu! or Rhythm Heaven or really badly trying to look cool playing something in an arcade. I want to see if the home rhythm game market is still pretty accessible and fun for people who just want to try something out.
TAPSONIC BOLD offers three modes to choose from: Solo play, missions, and arcade. Solo play is exactly what it says on the tin. You can go in, choose a song, choose your difficulty, and play through it without worrying about failure. It’s a relaxed mode to get your head around things. Arcade mode is similar again. But, it functions as a true arcade mode in that you have health. That means if you mess up one too many times while playing through the song, you’ll lose. Then, your scores are tracked and uploaded to an online leaderboard.
Mission mode, however, is where I found the bulk of my interest as it offers a more clear-cut goal to work toward while also steadily increasing in difficulty, walking you through what TAPSONIC has to offer. For example, the first mission mode offers two songs on easy. The aim is to get your score past a certain amount. From there, other missions might require things like getting a certain combo length or finishing with a particular ranking.
The actual gameplay is also pretty straightforward and similar to most rhythm games. Notes appear at the top of the screen in one of six lanes. These notes then scroll down to the bottom and the player then has to hit the associated key in time with the music. In addition, there are some extra styles of note where the player might need to hold a key to represent a held note. Another style requires you to press a combination of keys in order to activate a lane flip. This could reduce the number of keys required to press from six to two, or increase it from four to six, for example.
It also changes up the order of the notes on the board, which can be frustrating in that it’s very easy to miss a bunch of notes due to the flipped board being completely different from the layout you had previously.
Scoring system and tutorial mode
Thankfully, TAPSONIC is relatively forgiving in terms of hitting notes. Though perhaps this would come across as a negative for fans of the rhythm genre. Especially if they prefer note-perfect scoring systems. Although as much as I appreciated it, I found myself obtaining S and A ranks despite a lot of missed notes and a lot of times I felt I was hitting a note a little off time. I felt maybe when I should have been given a ‘good’, I received a ‘perfect’.
The game also offers a brief tutorial mode which, while appreciated, seems to have an assumption the player is already familiar with Tapsonic in that it’s very short and only offers a brief glimpse into the various modes and note types. Though in saying that, it really is more of a ‘learn by doing’ game.
TAPSONIC BOLD contains a total of 82 tracks, with more promised in the future. It’s a massive playlist with a few tracks being drawn from previous games while others are completely new just for this Steam release. Whether upbeat pop is your thing, or rock, or the many, many examples of trance and electronic style music. The mix ensures you should at least find a handful of songs you really enjoy playing.
The music is also really helped by the attention to detail of the song maps, the note layouts feel perfect as you hit them in time with the beat which means the more rhythm-inclined of us would probably do a lot better at this than I did.
The problems I found with TAPSONIC BOLD weren’t too bad, on their own. But they’re the kind of small quality of life issues that add up over time and left me feeling a little frustrated as I tried to navigate the menus, in that most of the problems with the game, well… Lie in the menus. It stacks up pretty quickly.
Sorting songs is a little more obtuse than it should be. You can sort songs by difficulty and the like, but I found that, especially in sorting by difficulty, it was still a little frustrating to navigate as each song also has levels.
That meant the menu will default the songs in a horizontal line according to normal, but to change to easy or hard. You have to then move to the song and change the difficulty. But, that will again reorder the horizontal menu and leave the cursor in a completely different part of the line. You then end up having to navigate through the entire list again to find your place.
There’s also the lag that comes with choosing songs as it loads the leaderboards. There can be a slight delay in switching, which is frustrating if you’re trying to scroll through the list for a particular song. Or, extra frustrating if you’re trying to choose in arcade mode which is a timed song selection screen.
The other fault I personally found was in the graphical display of songs. It’s possible to customize it to a certain degree like choosing your keyboard layout and selecting from a few different note styles and sounds as well as backgrounds for the stages. However, there’s no option to change to a matte and muted display or to turn off things like the score for those who are easily distracted by visuals. There’s also no custom way to change how the notes look, which may make it easier for visually impaired players.
Again, it’s all small stuff, but it’s enough stuff put together to detract from my experience.
It’s always amazing to see how genres evolve, especially ones you only dabble in every now and then. TAPSONIC BOLD is a fine display of how mobile and arcade-style rhythm games are progressing, innovating and still looking and sounding very flashy (in a good way).
While I was quickly reminded how uncoordinated I am and why I gave up piano because I can’t make my fingers multitask like that, I was rarely mad at the game for being unfair about it.
Other than the lane change mechanic which could use some fine-tuning as it can be a little unfair, the game still hits the notes perfectly with enough lax to make sure even novice players stand a chance. So long as they’re playing on easy. And, a low leveled easy at that. It has a huge learning curve and can be very unforgiving very quickly. Which once again shows why the rhythm genre remains in a niche for hardcore players as opposed to casual players like myself.