Upon the launch of the Nintendo Switch, music rhythm game VOEZ was one of the platform’s highlights.
With its sumptuous presentation, catchy songs and infectious gameplay, it remains one of the best music rhythm games currently available. It only has one problem: you can only play it in handheld mode thanks to it requiring you to use touchscreen controls. But Cytus Alpha, also a music rhythm game by the same developer, doesn’t have the same restriction.
Cytus Alpha is an enhanced version of Cytus, a mobile phone game that has also been tweaked for release on PlayStation Vita in the past. There’s also been an arcade version. Cytus is actually older than VOEZ, which also started life as mobile phone game, but you wouldn’t tell playing Cytus Alpha.
It’s been available on Switch for a while now, though while those in North America have been able to buy it physically as well as digitally, those in Europe are only just being given the chance. The Collector’s Edition of the game is available via a select number of retailers.
With its colourful, crisp, native resolution visuals, Cytus Alpha is beautiful to look at, especially in Switch’s handheld mode. Its menus are like a work of art, clean yet sophisticated, and during gameplay there’s not too much clutter. There’s nothing to distract you from the myriad of notes appearing on the screen, allowing you to clearly focus on the task at hand. And that’s important, because Cytus Alpha takes no prisoners.
The gameplay of Cytus Alpha feels comfortably familiar, yet how it’s presented gives it an alluring uniqueness. Notes appear all over the screen, and you need to hit the required buttons just as a line roving up and down the screen passes over them. Simple circular notes require a tap of the screen or a button, while notes with straight trails require you to hold one or the other. And then there are notes that have paths with arrows on them; for those you need to drag your finger in the correct pattern on the screen or simply hold the trigger buttons.
Being able to use buttons to play Cytus Alpha makes it much more accessible to play. Don’t get me wrong, it’s probably more intuitive playing the game via touchscreen, but as you really need to use both hands, you’re required to lay your Switch flat to do so. That limits where you can play it. Using buttons, you can play Cytus Alpha absolutely anywhere, unlike VOEZ. And you’re not put at much of a disadvantage.
With notes thrown at you sometimes at astonishing speed, you quickly get used to tapping away at both the face and d-pad buttons to hit them one after another. The hardest thing is training yourself to hold the triggers instinctively. Cytus Alpha is fairly lenient on the whole though, allowing players to progress even if they aren’t ninjas with lightning-fast reflexes – especially on the game’s easy difficulty.
Cytus Alpha doesn’t just have easy-to-pick-up, hard-to-master gameplay though; it also has an abundance of content. There are ten main chapters for you to work through, and many extra bonus chapters. Unlock them all and you’ll have over 200 songs to play, covering a wide range of genres. Chances are you won’t have heard the huge majority of the songs before, but it doesn’t really matter. There aren’t really any duds.
If for some reason you feel like you need a narrative to make the experience worthwhile, there is a story to unlock, complete with yet more beautiful artwork. It really isn’t necessary though. The real draw of Cytus Alpha is its wonderful music and mesmerising gameplay. It doesn’t need any context.
For those who are particularly competitive, Cytus Alpha also features online play, allowing three players to battle it out to be the victor. It’s rare that you actually find opponents, but matchmaking is never a fruitless affair. If a match isn’t found, you’re allowed to play by yourself, and every attempt at a song allows you to make your mark on the online leaderboards. It’s just a shame that the maximum score available on each song is 1,000,000 points, limiting long-term competition. But that’s about the only negative thing I can point out about Cytus Alpha.
As music rhythm games go, Cytus Alpha is up there with the best of them. Some may be a little put off by its price – £44.99/$49.99 is rather steep – but thanks to its sheer amount of content, it’s well worth it. There are tens of hours of fun to be had with the game, especially for players that seek to tackle all of its songs on Hard difficulty. And every minute they spend in that pursuit will be filled with energetic excitement.
Cytus Alpha is available on Switch.