Platform: PC (Version Reviewed) / Xbox One
Developer: Seaven Studios
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Genre: Platform / Rhythm
Price: £10.99 / $14.99
Release Date: 11th May 2015
Looking back on some of my most memorable gaming experiences, the ones that stand out in terms of character and consistent enjoyment are those that weave the music and rhythm of the soundtrack into the gameplay in some sense. Gitaroo Man, Osu!, Parappa the Rapper, Theatrhythm and Daigasso showed me how you can make a musical game feel more than just hitting the right buttons at the indicated time. Then came the games like Rhythm Tengoku, Beatbuddy, Planet Quest and Sound Shapes that incorporate the beat into gameplay less related to the typical set-up. Inside My Radio is definitely in the latter camp, offering a recognisable platforming experience that requires nearly every action to be performed to the tempo of the audio.
You follow the story of a lone LED, awoken from slumber by the fading spirit of a boombox. A terrible fate has befallen the residents of this world and it’s up to you to save them all. It’s been done a thousand times over and we can all predict how this will end, but it’s flavour text to keep you motivated on the journey rather than attempting to weave an epic story that keeps you from getting on with the action. There’s a small supporting cast of musical stereotypes that offer comic relief but the focus is most definitely on the gameplay and mechanics rather than the fluff you’ll most likely skip on repeat playthroughs.
Everything you need to do in Inside My Radio needs to be performed to the beat of the background music. Each pulse (symoblised by a metronome-esque visual indicator should you need the assistance) is a point in which you can make one of many different actions necessary to make even the slightest progress. Jumping, dashing, butt-slams and interacting with the environment are all tempo-related, which does take some getting used to in order to play efficiently. Certain moments require surprising dexterity and a good ear, so over-riding the automated “panic platforming” developed from games like Meat Boy requires practice and inevitably an occasional spot of frustration.
When it performs at its best though, it’s well worth the time it takes to acclimatise. Each action has a certain sound that combines with the level’s music track to produce an evolving symphony reacting and feeding on your own actions. While I’d love to have seen this aspect invested in further, it still gives an almost tactile feel to your movement and a sense of satisfaction when you break into stride and pass multiple obstacles in fluid motion. It calls upon some of the best moments of recent Rayman games; the song-based levels, where each barrier broken produced audio cues to perfect match the melody. It doesn’t quite hit those elated highs due to be more open-ended but it’s well implemented and highly effective.
It’s often the little touches that turns good games into great ones, and Inside My Radio is full of clever ideas waiting for inquisitive minds to experiment. At one point, you pass a soundboard that can be interacted with in sixteen different ways to morph the current soundtrack; applying bass, dubstep and volume to different elements. The best sign of quality is how all of these moments are entirely optional, like RPGs including lore-filled books, you can judge the love put into a game by how strong the unnecessary parts are, those that most people won’t even find in a solitary playthrough.
Inside My Radio’s biggest point of contention comes in its brevity. Clocking in at around 2 hours, it’s arguably average for a platformer but it’s always something that weighs heavy on the scales when justifying a purchase, especially considering its cost is slightly greater than the average. I don’t personally agree with factoring a game’s cost into a review; it’s not only purely subjective but also prone to wild changes with sales, bundles and permanent reductions hitting many games in the past. If you value ingenuity and character, love the genre or premise and you don’t mind its current content to hour ratio then you will likely absolutely love it. Those that do can extend their playtime with some great hidden achievements, an incredibly testing score attack mode and an original adventure that never outstays its welcome.
There are complaints in my time with it but most are minor to the point of nitpicking, such as a text font that can be difficult to read and a final boss battle that sadly falls onto genre tropes rather than exploiting the strengths displayed earlier. They’re typically forgotten as quickly as they appear once the charming adventure continues its stride. Most people complete Inside My Radio in one sitting, one way to take that is to actually be impressed that it grips the majority of players for a single unbroken session. Given our tendency to flit between multiple sources, it speaks volumes (ba-dum tsh) on how it is persistently enjoyable.