Nov 25th, 2017, 12:30 PM

Press Play to Start — Part 5: Move to the Rhythm

By Ofir Ben Dor
Image from Thumper. Image Credit: Drool/Presskit
Sometimes, the music is the game.

Music video games are a fairly large genre of video games, most notable for games such as Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero and, most recently, the Just Dance franchise. Specifically, the aforementioned games all belong to a sub-genre called rhythm games, where players must perform actions (pressing a button, striking a pose or even sing) according to given prompts. As a genre, music video games also include games where one creates music such as the music creation tool in 1992's Mario Paint.

Rhythm games have managed to branch out of their own sub-genre, and have found their way into many other games. This can be seen in 2015's Yakuza 0's karaoke, where one takes a break from the serious crime story to sing a silly song, or in 2013's Rayman Legends' music levels seen in the video above with its mariachi/kazoo version of Eye of the Tiger. There are also hybrid games which include an element of rhythm in them — 2015's Crypt of the NecroDancer is a rhythm-action game. This article will focus on two lesser-known examples of the genre, a rhythm-rap game, and a rhythm-horror game.

PaRappa the Rapper — Learning to Drive in Style

Released in 1996, PaRappa is considered one of the progenitors of the rhythm game genre — coming out before 1997's Beatmania and 1998's Dance Dance Revolution. As is very clear, oddly does not even begin to describe the game; colorful, cartoony and bizarre, the game oozes style in a way that just puts a smile on your face. The silly aesthetics were created by American artist Rodney Alan Greenblat. When asked where the idea for the game came from, he said that the director liked to experiment "with computers and music. He had been creating a Macintosh-based music sequencer. It was fun to use [so]this gave him the idea to create a [r]ap music sequencing game."

The rapper behind the lyrics in the game, Ryu Watabe, actually freestyle the "lyrics in English on the spot" according to one of the developers. Ryu explains his love for the music when he says that:

"Hip-hop is all about freedom. There aren’t really any rules and restrictions"

Though he later says that he had to work within the limits of the video game and that he "was a little embarrassed about [his] fellow rap artists hearing it. Yet the feedback [...] has all been positive. They understand what we were trying to do."

Thumper — Rhythm Violence

There is a reason why Thumper's official tagline is "A Rhythm Violence Game"; its music is haunting, dark, electronic and industrial — the type of music that does not appear in rhythm games usually. The developers created a different type of music video game; unlike the usual "weightless and spaceless feeling" one gets from rhythm games, they "wanted to make one with an intense sensation of speed and physicality." One of the main goals, according to one of the developers, was to have:

"the player interacting with the audio and the visuals in such a way that creates a powerful sense of immersion."

The end result is an intense experience that uses the inherent rigid rules of the genre to create a sense of dread where every mistake does not just mean a lower score — it could mean death.

You can read the first through third parts of this series here: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4