Rhythm games tend to find a lot of mileage from their repetitive nature. Learn the pattern, repeat it, get better at timing, do a harder song and repeat. The sense of progression drives enjoyment, with different speeds, timing and beats making every experience a little different. Given Cytus Alpha offers simple to learn and hard to master controls, is it the next big rhythm game or is it something certain fans will appreciate?
Surprisingly, Cytus Alpha features a story told though unlockable images and text explanations. It talks about advancements of robotic life, struggles and the overall progression over a variety of unlockable pages. It’s the type of thing that is interesting, but has no bearing on the overall experience, especially given it has little to no impact on the actual gameplay experience.
As mentioned above, Cytus Alpha is shockingly simple and can be played via touch or a controller. Touch gameplay is straightforward. Inputs appear on the screen and you poke them. If you need to hold, simply press the icon for the duration, with movement based inputs requiring said movement. Controller users can push any of the YXAB or directional buttons, with holds requiring players to hold down an input and movement being done by holding down a trigger.
Where the challenge starts to come into play is multiple inputs, change ups and the ever moving bar. If you get a multiple button input, simple push two buttons (can be any two as long as they’re different buttons), poke both sides or, I believe, simply pressing one button fast enough also works. Change ups demand players either swap between the different inputs and/or delayed inputs come into play, forcing players to be aware of what needs to be done. As for the bar, this actually determines whether you receive a good, bad, perfect or miss.
The main idea is just as basic as the controls. Wait for the bar to overlap with an input and it’s perfect. If you input too early, it’s just good and if you’re a bit late it’s bad, with anything you overlook counting as a miss. Touch is easier to finish, where as controller makes perfect scores far more obtainable. What makes touch easier to learn and harder to master is controller pretty much only accepts inputs when they’re near the perfect range, meaning you’re more likely to perfect or miss, where as you can input things well in advance with touch, you’re just punished for doing so.
When all is said and done, players essentially need to hit a million points. This is considered a perfect score and the only thing left to improve is the actual accuracy of said inputs, something that always leaves room for improvement.
Even if the gameplay is easy to understand, it isn’t the most interesting game to watch. Where Hatsune Miku and DJMax both utilize music videos of some kind, Cytus Alpha remains flat besides the actual commands you need to input. Considering things like DJMax Respect’s Don’t Die, along with a few others, appear without their videos, it can make the overall experience rather dull.
More competitive gamers can try their luck online, though it isn’t much to talk about. After picking the difficulty range you prefer, two other players are selected and you play a random song at one of the difficulties you selected. The only real difference between this and traditional play is the icon at the top near score indicates which place you’re in and at the end you’re told if you won, placed or lost. It’s fun, even if you’re not that good, it just doesn’t do much to change the overall experience.
It’s hard to find fault with Cytus Alpha. There are some good and bad songs, with enough variety to give players plenty of different experiences. When you consider it’s the type of game anyone can get into but very few can master, it makes the progression from newcomer to pro a little more accessible. Sure, it lacks videos and some of the things found on other rhythm games, it’s still the type of game I could see pulling out in the airport and enjoying or booting up once in a while for a quick play.
[Editor’s Note: Cytus Alpha was reviewed on Switch platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]