Missed a few beats, but got quite a few too
When a developer isn't content with current conventions, it's time for them to go against the grain. We haven't seen a rhythm game in quite a while (I'm on the fence with Child Of Eden, although that is a fantastic game regardless), and we all have Activision to thank for that, so.. hope you don't get too comfy with shooters getting released every ten seconds. Anyway, Sequence is what happens when you give a rhythm game some light RPG elements and... that's about it. It does have the potential to be a great game, but it always feels like it could be oh so much better with more content. In fact, that's what it lacks – content, like more than just the one element. It feels like half a game, really.
Story: Ky wakes up inside a mysterious tower. An equally mysterious person known as Naia serves as his guide, as she guides him to the safe room and explains some fundamental things about the tower without getting into the juicy parts. Obviously, Ky wants out, so he has to get to the seventh floor and defeat its guardian in order to escape. It's hard to really explain how good it is, considering that it's both good and bad. It's good because it has some moments where Ky and Naia's banter is fairly witty, but it's bad because it just feels like it has the sass of a Saturday morning cartoon and that it could be so much better. It's really hard to explain, but just watch an episode of Ben 10 (the original, not the shitty sequels that they made for extra cash and without what made the original work in the first place) and then watch an episode from seasons 3-7 of The Simpsons and you'll understand what I mean.
Gameplay: While there's a fair amount to the story, the same can't be said for the gameplay. In fact, there's... very little of it here. BUT what little of it we do have works finely, so don't get your panties in a bunch. Anyway, the only actual gameplay involved is battling, which is done with a more.. musical flavoring. Before I get onto battling, I have to admit that the omission of other gameplay elements is something that kind of pisses me off. Don't get me wrong, the battle system works out pretty damn well, but why couldn't we have floors to explore? Chests to open? Anything other than the battling? It's a good thing they went with the system that they did, or else, this would get really boring.
You're given three screens - one for defense, one for mana regeneration, and one for spellcasting. You'll need to keep your eye on the defense one throughout the battle, as if you don't, enemies will *bleep* you up, especially on the harder difficulties (which is THANKFULLY not artificial; the harder you set it, the more demanding each key press will get). However, you can't just defend; you need to attack as well - there's no tiring them out! Thankfully, you're given a couple of spells; one that attacks, and one that defends. They're mapped to the number keys, so press one and switch to the spell screen - hopefully, the enemy isn't about to bludgeon you because while you're casting a spell, you're left wide open to an assault. Not to mention, miss even one key - just one *bleep*ing key, and you won't cast that spell and all the mana you've spent on that spell will be wasted, meaning you'll want to switch to the mana screen - preferably when you're not about to get attacked, though in the case of mana, you're free to regenerate it any time, so just keep an eye on the defense screen. Oh, did I forget to mention that you have to hit the corresponding button in order to actually do anything? Don't worry, they're simply arrows and they're bound either to the WASD or arrow keys. But yeah, prepare to deliver some fancy fingerwork.
That's just the basics. As you progress, you'll be subjected to guardian effects. Each floor has a different one, like locking you onto a screen, having the commands fade out as they reach the bottom, and... well, I won't spoil the rest, but let me just say that it'll make battling trickier (in case it wasn't already if you're playing on a harder difficulty mode). You can craft items that'll stop enemies from using them and make bosses use them less...
...which brings me into synthesis. Oh my god, talk about artificial difficulty! Instead of simply being allowed to synthesize an item, you have to rely on luck. They didn't bother coming up with currency – instead, you use your experience points to synthesize. You can pay more to increase the chances of an item being synthesized, but you can't go any higher than 95%, and the worst part is that you can level down... oh yes, levelling down is possible, and in conjunction with this bullshit *bleep*ing luck based synthesis system... seriously, you want me to synthesize, right? Well, let me synthesize without making it needlessly bullshit! I have the items and the right amount of EXP – WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT!?
Replay Value: Sadly, synthesis is the only replay value that you can find in this game, because once you've finished the story, that's it. No other sidequests, no places to explore... nothing. Well, okay, there are achievements like queueing 5 spells and some other stuff you wouldn't really do unless you read it off of the achievement list, but ultimately, it'll lead back to synthesis as you have to synthesize Iridium, which requires three synthesized items, which all require rare raw items, which require that you fight off monsters and beat them badly. That's if you can get past the whole luck thing... *bleep* it.
Controls: The controls aren't any more complicated than pressing the corresponding arrow key(s) in time with what's on screen (or really, with the beat of the music) and pressing Q and E to switch screens. I do find that sometimes, it won't respond, and it can throw off your entire rhythm, but that usually happens if the gem his a bit below the center of the arrow, so it's just a matter of really paying attention to the beat of the music. That's about it, because that's all the game really is – a rhythm game, no exploration or nothing.
Graphics: There isn't a lot in the way of graphics. Most of what you look at are images, whether they're portraits or backgrounds. That's.. pretty much it. No animation or anything. With that said, it does look nice. The portraits manage to convey a fair amount of emotions depending on what's being said, and on top of the backgrounds, they have such rich colors and a good amount of detail put into each of the illustrations, especially the backgrounds. As for the tables, they're simple, clear and concise, meaning you'll figure out what to press at what time. It's just easy to follow, which is what the point of it is. So while it's not much in the animation department, it looks pretty good.
Audio: It'd honestly make no sense to have bad music for a rhythm game, and for the record, the music found in Sequence is pretty good. It's a fairly eclectic soundtrack, ranging from piano music to different sorts of electronic music, but all have two things in common – they're memorable because they're all different (both in genre and the beats per second) and they sound pretty damn good. The voice acting goes well enough with the story, as they mostly give performances with a decent amount of conviction, although some bits here and there just don't sound right, like they're forcing it out because they know that some of the dialogue is crappy.
Overall: Sequence is a game that suffers from not really having much content. At the end of the day, all you're really doing is playing a rhythm game and nothing else. Despite it taking place within a tower, there's no exploration, there's no dungeon crawling... there's *bleep* all, but the rhythm gameplay is good enough to work. That, and the music, is all that keeps this game going, because everything else ranges from non existent to mediocre, and in the case of the synthesis system, something that just makes you go “what the *bleep*”. But yeah, it's one of those games that does a very, very good job of doing what it does right, and it's cheap, so why not at least give it a shot? I mean, unless you're uncooridinated...
Replay Value: 3/10