Who is Deemo? Getting to the answer won’t be easy.
It’s clear after only a few minutes that Deemo Reborn has been designed with virtual reality play in mind. This means that, for someone who doesn’t have a PSVR headset, playing the game will be very tough to start.
Deemo Reborn is, first and foremost, a rhythm game. Starting first as a mobile game in 2013 it has since made its way to consoles. The PS4 version of the game is tough to swallow without the accompanying VR headset due to the confusing controller configuration, but anyone that does try it out in virtual reality will find it to be a unique experience.
You play as a young girl who falls through the roof of a grand castle into a room inhabited by a single piano and a tall, expressionless man named Deemo. Deemo doesn’t speak to the girl, but she seems to be able to understand that he means her no harm. As the girl and Deemo play the piano, roots grow up from the ground. The more you play the larger the roots grow and the closer the girl gets to being able to escape the castle.
There isn’t a lot explained to you when you first load up Deemo. You’re introduced to the characters and are allowed a practice round on the piano before you begin playing a full song. The rhythm game plays much like the Guitar Hero series: there is a black line along the bottom of your screen and notes move down from the top of the screen that you must hit in time with the music. The piano is split into six sections with each section corresponding to a button on the controller. The left section, which consists of three buttons, correspond with the left, up and right arrows on the controller; the right side is circle, triangle and square.
As simple as this sounds, it is actually incredibly difficult, especially in the beginning, to play the songs well. Due to the game board/piano being in a straight line and the buttons on the controller not lining up in the same way, it was particularly challenging for my brain to communicate to my fingers which buttons I should be pressing. In fact, as you progress and are forced to play each song on a harder difficulty, playing the game with any kind of accuracy is near impossible. Even after two or three hours of playing the same songs over and over I wasn’t getting any better.
And that’s one of the great downsides in Deemo. While the game consists of almost 300 songs, you need to play each track multiple times on a number of difficulties in order to unlock new songs. The music is both beautiful and fun with a mix genres to enjoy, but having to play the same songs repeatedly can get a bit… well, repetitive. Especially when you come across a song so difficult you can’t seem to improve your score no matter how many times you try (cast your mind back to Guitar Hero 3‘s ‘Through the Fire and Flames’ and you’re some way there).
But Deemo isn’t just about playing songs, though that is what you’ll be doing the most. You’re also able to freely walk around as the young girl and explore the castle, unlocking different special items and interacting with Deemo and other creatures that you’ll meet in your time there. As you play and explore, more rooms will unlock, each yielding new songs for you to tackle. It’s hard to tell when you should step away from the piano and do some exploring, so it’s always wise to play a few songs and then take a break. More often than not, though, the game will be waiting for you to get a higher score on a certain song, or play a song on a higher difficulty before allowing you to progress.
The world in which Deemo is based is a beautiful one that I loved exploring, especially when unexpected things happened just by turning off some lights or following a glow in the water. The game rewards you for being curious, much like the young girl herself is, so it’s fun to poke around. When you reach Deemo Reborn‘s conclusion you’ll unexpectedly also be reaching for a box of tissues – for a genre that often doesn’t have much personality, it’s truly refreshing to see one that packs in so much heart.
Unfortunately, because Deemo Reborn is a rhythm game first and foremost, it falls short if you’re playing it on the plain old DualShock 4 controller. The button scheme, while seemingly straightforward, is much too complicated when you attempt to play anything more than an “easy” difficulty song. If you do have a PSVR headset with Move controllers, you’ll have an altogether different experience, but for those attempting to use a controller you’ll likely give up before the game has barely started.