Getting in the Groov

Review of Groov on XBLIG: Try
A musical twist on the dual-stick shooter.

Groov reminds me of Geometry Wars.  (This is a good thing; I’ve logged numerous hours playing that game.)  Both games feature a free-moving ship in a blocked-off rectangular playfield; both feature wave after wave of enemies with a variety of flight patterns and behaviors.  And, of course, both feature the dual-stick control over movement and firing.

Groov innovates on the genre by making music and rhythm a core game mechanic.  It starts with a a beat, which is echoed in a very subtle controller vibration.  Every laser blast fired adds a different note in the melody, and the ship’s fire rate fluctuates with the tempo of the music.  Enemy ships don’t disappear when tagged with the laser; they glow white and disappear in rhythm.  As they disappear, they add a flourish to the soundtrack—a scratch or a horn, for example.  In addition, it’s possible to slow down the enemy ships three times per game, but this ability must be activated in time with the music.

All of this is interesting aesthetically, but in my experience, it doesn’t change much in terms of gameplay. (To be fair, I have little training or talent in music, so I may be missing some subtlety here.)  It’s possible to fly through enemies that have been shot but haven’t disappeared, so that effect isn’t much different from enemies exploding when shot.  (Actually, it can be confusing—since the disabled ships clutter up the screen during more tense bouts of action, I had to retrain myself not to avoid them.)  The restriction on the time-slowing ability is only a minor inconvenience—it’s just a matter of mashing the button rapidly until it activates.

Still, this is a solid addition to the dual-stick shooter genre, and it’s very challenging.  There are three modes.  Normal Mix is much like an “Arcade” mode—there are a set number of waves to complete, and three lives are provided.  I found it difficult to get past the 25,000 point mark, but eventually was able to squeak by to the final wave.  Expert Remix is unlocked when Normal Mix is completed, and functions as a “Survival” mode—one life, and infinite waves of enemies.  Scoring 25,000 points in Expert Remix unlocks Jam Session, but I haven’t been able to do this yet—I’m lucky to score 10,000 points.

I’m giving Groov a Try.  I didn’t feel the musical theme was revolutionary, but it is an attempt to differentiate itself in a genre that has a lot of clones.  If you like the genre, it’s a fun game with some depth—certainly worth 80 points.

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