I really don’t like Gal Metal as much as I expected to.
You see, present me with a game in which I need to lead a girl band and fight off alien attackers with the power of metal, and I’m all ears. Even if the only instrument you get to play is the drums. The problem with Gal Metal though, is that it’s too happy trying to fill your time with a merely serviceable story and boring busywork rather then letting you have fun with drumsticks.
Playing through Gal Metal‘s story mode is imperative to have any fun with the game. Why?Because to play any of the game’s 13 songs in Free Mode, you need to have completed them in story mode first. That means between each song, you need to spend your time watching a story unravel, comic book style, and then spend time visiting locations on a map to build your stats. Both are as dull as dishwater, making you care very little for the characters you’re lumbered with. Honestly, the game would be better off without them, as its drum based gameplay is what makes it both unique and interesting.
Gal Metal does what very few music rhythm games do: it gives you freedom to perform. Rather than bombarding you with notes that fly across the screen as you play, it lets you do as you please. It’s somewhat of a double-edged sword; those who don’t put in the time to learn the myriad of drum routines that are available will feel like deer caught in a car’s headlights, but those who do are likely to find the whole experience hugely rewarding. Like being a real drummer, Gal Metal requires you to listen to the rest of your band members and use the drum routines that complement the music. Get it wrong and it’ll just sound awkward. Get it right and you’ll be patting yourself on the back.
It’s very rare that a game forces you to do so much groundwork before you can truly enjoy it though. To really get the most out of Gal Metal you’re going to have to spend a great deal of time in Practice Mode, learning the drum routines available until you’ve got them all memorised. I daresay most players won’t have the patience for such a task, and you can’t really blame them; it does feel quite a lot like hard work. For those who want to enjoy a music rhythm game with a difference, however, perseverance does pay off eventually. Very few games convey the feeling of playing in a band as well as Gal Metal does.
Controls are another issue that may put some players off. You can play Gal Metal in three ways: using motion controls, using the touch screen, or using buttons. Swinging your Joy-Cons like a couple of drumsticks really is fun, but it somewhat dumbs down the experience while also making it a lot harder. The inaccuracy of the controls will mean that you’ll sometimes miss a hit or accidentally perform an unwanted second one on your upswing. Getting a score big enough to complete songs in Free Mode will be a real challenge.
The controls are much improved when you switch to buttons, and you’ll find that you have access to an expanded drum kit, too. The expanded drum kit is also available when you play in touch screen mode, which is undoubtedly the best way to play. It just feels quite natural to tap the drums to play them, allowing you to really get into the rhythm and rack up those points. You obviously can’t play using the touch screen when in docked mode, though playing on the TV proved problematic for me anyway; it was a real pain to get the game to effectively compensate for any lag the TV introduced. Eventually I just gave up trying and went back to playing in handheld mode.
Disappointing, that’s the best word to describe Gal Metal. It’s a game with great potential, but it just isn’t focused or accessible enough to capitalise on it. It works best as a music rhythm game, yet on that front it’s pitifully light on content; 13 songs just doesn’t really cut in in the long run. If the time spent creating its passable story and stat-building busywork had been spent further developing the core music rhythm gameplay and adding more songs, Gal Metal could have really been great. As it is though, it’s simply a curio that will bore and frustrate more than it entertains.