Steam Next Fest 2022: Bop along a hero's path in Rhythm Sprout
I love a good video game mascot. A charming cartoon hero with staying power and the ability to endear gamers of all ages? They're rarer in today's gaming landscape but just as effective as ever when they do show up.
Mario. Sonic. Sackboy. Crash Bandicoot. Rhythm Sprout? We had the opportunity to spend some time with this rhythmic onion knight during Steam Next Fest, and this little adventuring hero gave all the same feelings as those classic and beloved characters that have captured hearts for decades.
SURTGAMES are the minds behind this vibrant rhythm adventure, bringing a level of confidence and polish to their debut effort that has it feeling like the work of a much more veteran team. Backed by tinyBuild, they look ready to come out of the gates hot.
Based out of Norway, the team presents Rhythm Sprout, a rhythm adventure full of original music and a simplified rhythm game experience that truly tests your ability to keep the beat. Like Divekick distilled the fighting game down to its core, Rhythm Sprout does something similar for the rhythm genre, offering a simple three-button system to get you through each track.
You'll hit left and right notes, dodge when blue notes come down the lane, and make your way down the path ahead of you. It's a simple, intuitive three-button system that makes Rhythm Sprout a fairly easy pick-up-and-play experience. Progress in Rhythm Sprout isn't just making your way through a set track length — instead, each successful note manifests as forward progress pushing your little Sprout down the path in the game's many varied environments. Each world's main track is a solid two- to three-minute loop, with increasing complexity as you move along. Eventually, that main track will be interrupted when you come across one of Sprout's enemies waiting along the route.
Battles spring up with a remixed shorter loop of the main track, where each note you hit injures your enemy's health, while failed dodges reduce Sprout's health. Finish your enemy off and you can be on your merry way back down the main track's path.
Rhythm Sprout seems easy at the outset. But more than any other rhythm game, the minute you lose the beat, it all comes crashing down. Losing isn't as simple as missing a few notes; you only really lose when you deplete Sprout's health by missing dodge notes. Missing any regular notes simply pushes you backward on the path (and really has no negative effect in your battles) which allows you to take a breath and reset when you lose that beat. I appreciate that as a nice little accessibility feature for those of us who love to bop to the beat but otherwise may not be as dexterous as our intense DDR pals. The demo has five unique levels and offers a sampling of the game's replayability efforts with the ability to remix tracks after you beat them once, with features like: mirror (left becomes right and right becomes left), turbo (speeds the track up), and random (can give you a completely randomized note pattern). It's great to see features like that in a demo, and you know it's a good sign when you go through every track available a second time through with modifiers, just because you want to.
One of the other obvious differences from your typical rhythm game is Rhythm Sprout's general narrative framework. The game is a bit of a quirky adventure, with Sprout taking a walk through a kingdom of fruits and veggies. King Brock (a head of broccoli) sends you on your way to wander through haunted mansions, down a fruity beach, and through a beautiful winter wonderland. With fun intros and outros to each world Sprout wanders through, Rhythm Sprout brings personality to the forefront. The writing is cheeky, the cast of foodstuff characters would make VeggieTales blush, and it all blends beautifully into the gameplay experience.
We also appreciate that SURTGAMES crafted a demo-specific narrative here too, acknowledging the inability to set up too much context with so little time to impress, and even teasing things in the full release with some fun meta dialogue.
With its adorable and vibrant style, almost like a Cartoon Network Steven Universe-era cartoon brought to life, Rhythm Sprout definitely showcases the talents of its artists. We loved the grotesque realistic faces of each of Sprout's enemies, the over-the-top giant eyebrows and obnoxious mustaches on several characters, and the overall design of the tracksuit-ed Sprout. Everything works visually.
And the music. I can't believe it's taken me this long to get to the music. The first track is a boppy bit of lo-fi hip-hop, there's a track that's all drum 'n' bass with a character's laugh used to lead the rhythm, and it all ends with an intense EDM track as you waltz through a club.
The full release promises to have a ton of varying genres, including disco, metal, and K-Pop. And if the demo is any testament to the quality of the original tracks waiting for us in the full game, we're excited to hear everything the team's got cooking. Rhythm Sprout stands out as one of our games to watch out of Steam Next Fest thanks to its pure rhythm gameplay, its goofy story, and its incredible selection of original music. But most of all... it's the only game I tried all week that called me hot, so obviously it gets the VGG stamp of approval.