One of the things that make rhythm games so much fun is the peripherals. Oh you could play Guitar Hero with just the regular controller of your console of choice but where's the fun in that? To say nothing of the ridiculous finger acrobatics you have to engage in for some of the trickier music. It just isn't conducive to having a really good time which is one of the main boons to the various special controllers you can buy. They're not just there to take up space, and money, they actually simplify the gaming experience.
When playing a rhythm game without a special controller it really requires the developer to design the game around the controller in question. A good control set-up can make even the more complicated games fun to play. Konami didn't quite get this message and what we're left with is a frustrating exercise of a rhythm game that is just not worth buying for any reason.
Beat 'n Groovy is the first Western release in the Pop 'n Music series, a prolific Japanese series of rhythm games. The games are incredibly popular and known just as much for their difficulty as they are for the often cutesy graphical style. Using a special nine button controller you do the usual hit the colored icons as they fall thing to catchy music.
So it's kind of peculiar that for the first time out of Japan they would choose to butcher the game this drastically. The graphics have been overhauled almost entirely, replaced by character models that look like they're ripped straight from the latest Bratz line of dolls. It's not appealing to any but the youngest of tween girls making for an incredibly strange design decision. Even worse is that the characters essentially have just two animations, one when doing well and one when doing poor, that consist of just wiggling a bit in place. It all has a very budget title feel to it.
While not as bad as the look of the game the sound is pretty bad as well. It falls just shy of being average due to the fact that they decided to take some well known public domain music and make horrendous techno music out of it. Some of the more original music is actually somewhat catchy but the rest of it really drags the soundtrack down far too much. Once again it feels like a budget title that mostly ran out of money and just started using whatever they could get their hands on.
Horrible artistic design and bland music could easily be forgiven if the game had decent gameplay but that's even worse than the previous issues. The three button mode is fairly simple to play as it's mostly mapped to controller buttons. But eventually you will try to move on to the five button mode and this is where the game gets ridiculous to handle. The five buttons are laid out to directions on the directional pad as well as the controller buttons in a really cumbersome way. Using left for one button, down for another and then the face buttons gets near impossible to manage during any of the harder songs. Even during the easier songs it's still entirely too uncomfortable to play the game like this.
Even the $10 price tag is asking far too much for this game. If it had been released for half that price then it still wouldn't be entirely worth the asking price. Everything about this game shows very little in the ways of effort whether it's in the graphics, audio or the transition to the 360 controller. There are plenty of rhythm games that were designed to work with the controllers of the systems they were on before Guitar Hero was released but Beat 'n Groovy is not one of them.