The tower of phat beats
Man, I just love these “come out of nowhere” indie games that are not only not far up their own asses, but are also reasonably enjoyable to play. Sequence takes the practically dead rhythm genre (thanks Activision), mixes it up with some stats and manages to create a humble little game. Sadly, it's one of those games that only has one element. Oh no, it's not one of those games with one good element and one or two shitty elements; it's a game with one element and that's it. Is it worth it? Let's dive right in and find out?
The story is pretty basic. Some guy named Ky is kidnapped and brought inside a tower. He has to go through seven levels (with the help of some woman named Naia via intercom), but to do so, he must unlock the doors and defeat seven guardians. That's about it, really – I mean, there are a couple of twists, but they don't really shake up the story much, plus it never really goes into what the tower is about... No, what gives the story any weight is the dialogue. It's got a fair amount of wit and sass to make you at least chuckle. Not much that'll make you burst into laughter, and the characters don't get much development (Ky gets a fair bit, but that's about it), but it functions well enough for some entertainment. Just be prepared for some awkward pauses where there should be interruptions.
Here's where the game truly shines – combat. Using the arrow or WASD keys, you have to press the correct key in time with what gem(s) fall(s) down, and using the Q and E keys, you switch screens. You have the defense screen for... what else but defense? You have the mana screen to regenerate mana, and finally, you have the spell screen to cast spells with. When casting spells (whether it's an offensive, poison inducing, defensive or healing spell) using keys 1-6, you have to make sure to hit every gem. Miss one, and that's mana wasted and you'll have to wait until it recharges. But the thing is, you can only hit gems for one screen at a time, so it really makes you think “should you cast a spell or focus on defense until you're sure they don't have any big attacks to deliver for a while”.
It does try to mix it up, with each floor having a guardian ability. These are designed to *bleep* with you, with each floor ramping it up. Whether it locks you onto a screen or speeds up the notes, you can expect it to challenge you further than just keeping up with the beat of the music. Yep, battles can get pretty hectic, especially if you're playing on the highest difficulty level which requires Muhammed Suiçmez-like precision, and that's what'll keep you around; the intense nature of rhythm based battling. It's all about making sure you can keep to the beat, whether you're getting your ass kicked or not.
Now, I say that battling is where it truly shines, but here's where it gets a bit on the shitty side of the fence... that's all there is to the game. No exploring the tower, no treasure hunting, no... nothing else. Oh, there's synthesis, but for some strange reason, they made it so that you can only synthesize less than 100% of the time. Basically, you pay EXP (because actually coming up with currency... hah) to have a 50% chance of synthesizing an item. You can pay more to increase the chance and less to decrease it, but the point is... why? This doesn't make the game more challenging, it just pisses people off. I get that Ky isn't the master of putting shit together, but *bleep* off if you think that justifies anything in the confides of a *bleep*ing video game that's not a survival horror.
Not to mention, if you want to synthesize more than just the key, you'll need to fight monsters multiple times... I forgot to mention that you select a monster out of three, and that defeating them yields rewards of three different rarities – common, rare and treasured, and if you're not very lucky, you'll be fighting them heaps upon heaps of times for the treasured items. Blech. If you don't care about getting 100%, just synethesize the key and the inhibitor – the key opens the boss door and the inhibitor will make grinding easier as it disables the effect on that floor (and I think it also reduces the number of times the boss uses that ability, but that could depend on luck, too).
Ah well, at least the graphics will calm me down, because it is a reasonably good looking game. The still images are quite well drawn with some neat use of colors and shading. However, it BEGS to be animated. I can understand not having much animation during the battles so that they don't distract you, but the cutscenes lacking animation is just lazy. The cutscenes are presented in a visual novel style that seriously screams laziness whenever it's the style used for most or even all of the game. Sure, some do call for it, but others, like meeting the bosses or whenever a twist happens, really could use some animated sequences. Eh, that's just me. But I think we can all agree that palette swapping is pretty damn lazy... seriously, just come up with more monster designs instead of swapping the colors of ones we've fought earlier...
The soundtrack is pretty damn good. Each song is of the electronic variety, but presented in different ways. You have the calmer songs, usually placed at the beginning of the game, while you get the more intense ones as you progress... oh yes, the intensity of a song can also determine the difficulty of an individual fight, as slower songs aren't so hard to keep in time with versus faster songs that can be demanding on your fingers and maybe keyboard. But yeah, the only issue I have with it is that some songs tend to get reused, which is a bit irritating because you'd expect different songs with different beat placements and timing to give each fight a more individual feel... ehh, then again, they reuse monster designs more than they reuse songs, and at least bosses have their own songs, so it's no huge deal. The voice acting is reasonably solid, managing to at least go well with the dialogue, but goddamn, those awkward pauses that are meant to have “interruptions”... ugh, and I thought Kingdom Hearts was bad...
The battling is pretty well done, and... umm, I think that's it. Oh, the synthesis sucks. Mmm artificial difficulty. Speaking of difficulty, the difficulty modes are actually well balanced, focusing on the amount of gems to clear on screen.
Sometimes, the keys don't work right under normal circumstances, but other than that, they work quite finely.
There isn't a lot of content, and the tower itself gets minimal development. The dialogue is good enough to keep you coming back, though.
The still pictures look nice enough, but it literally has no animation or anything that'd really 'wow' you. Plus there's a fair amount of palette swapping with the monsters.
The music sounds pretty sick, and it never really feels repetitive after constant battling... except there aren't all that many songs. The voice acting is not bad, but between some awkward pauses (whoops, I meant “interruptions”), ehh...
It should only take about 6-8 hours to beat, which is alright, but all you'll really have left to deal with is the shitty synthesis system (oh, and some achievements... which will lead back to synthesis!).
Battling can be pretty fun, except during times where some guardian effects arise and you're trying to get used to them. Synthesis is luck based, which is bullshit by default in a game that's not Mario Party my book.
Sequence is an interesting take on the rhythm genre, managing to add some RPG elements, but ultimately, it's the rhythm based battling and character interaction portions that really sell this game. The battling always keeps you on your toes unless you're overlevelled and the dialogue will at least make you chuckle. Everything else? Well, out of what does exist, synthesis is poorly implemented, the graphics are nothing more than still shots and some effects, and the voice acting is just passable. But on the other hand, it looks nice and the music is excellent. Plus, it's only like 5 bucks, so it's not as if you need a second mortgage or anything.