Described as “part rhythm game, part interactive art”, Glee-Cheese Studio’s A Musical Story is one to watch.
Announced earlier this week as part of the London Games Festival’s official selection and set to release later this summer, A Musical Story is devoid of any text and dialogue. Instead, its story is told entirely through art, and players progress through it by completing short rhythm challenges.
Set in the 1970s, there’s a distinct psychedelic feeling to its artwork, as an array of colours dance around the screen and images pulsate to the music. The music, of course, is the backbone here (in case the title A Musical Story didn’t give that away) and it’s wonderful. The soundtrack, composed by Charles Bardin and Valentin Ducloux, is inspired by the likes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin and it shows; there’s a wonderful mixture of instruments that together create a constant melody that grabs your ears and doesn’t let go.
A Musical Story is in fact the story of Gabriel. Told through his memories, players experience his relationship with music and his time travelling with his band. It’s not a long game – my hands-on demo allowed me to play the first 10 chapters of around 30, taking me around 20 minutes. But despite its brevity, this is a game that stands out for all the right reasons. Its sumptuous artwork, designed by Alexandre Rey, is a sight to behold, and its music will pulse through your head long after you’ve turned it off.
The rhythm sections are cleverly put together, asking players to both memorise and repeat a short melody section. Displayed in a circle, players will need to follow a series of icons, pressing the left or right shoulder button as indicated. Thankfully there’s no fail state; miss a note or press the wrong button and you’ll simply keep trying until you get it right.
By default, a helpful marker to guide you through the notes gradually appears if you make too many mistakes. You can turn it off entirely if you don’t want any help, though you can’t turn it on constantly. At least not yet, anyway; it’d be a nice feature to see in the final release to help out players who aren’t quite as rhythmic as others.
A Musical Story is certainly an interesting prospect. It’ll appeal to music game fans thanks to its sublime soundtrack and its challenging rhythm sections. But its focus on storytelling also puts it in a similar category to the likes of Florence and What Remains of Edith Finch; ultimately, this is the tale of a man’s life, and right from the opening scene – as we see him laying in a hospital bed – players will be desperate to know how he ends up there. We’ll have to wait until the summer to find out.
A Musical Story is coming to PC, Xbox, Switch and iOS later this year. A Steam demo will be available from 19th March as part of the London Games Festival.