The best elevator pitch for A Musical Story? A Pink Floyd visual album that you play along to.
To describe A Musical Story as a rhythm game would be reductive. As would describing it as an interactive story. It’s both of those things, and neither of those things. Yes, you do need to engage in rhythm game-like sections, hitting a button in time with the beat. And yes, you will experience a story through the course of your time with the title. It’s probably best described as an interactive music experience, but even that doesn’t quite do it justice. It’s unlike anything you’ve played before.
A Musical Story tells the tale of Gabriel, who, along with the rest of his bandmates, is trying to make it as a musician. It’s set against a 1970s backdrop, which is wonderfully captured through both the music and the animations. It’s devoid of any text and dialogue, with the story being told entirely through art and emotive changes to the soundtrack. But it works incredibly well; you’ll come to experience snippets of Gabriel’s life; his struggles with drug use, his whirlwind relationship, and his time being stretched between his love for music and his need to keep a day job. It’s all portrayed beautifully.
There’s a distinct psychedelic feeling to A Musical Story, as an array of colours dance around the screen and images pulsate to the music. The music, of course, is the backbone here, and it’s incredible. 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 mixture of synth, piano, guitar and acoustic, blended together perfectly. It’s a soundtrack that really takes you on a journey, and each song perfectly captures the feelings portrayed on screen in each section.
A Musical Story isn’t a long game – you’ll likely complete it in less than two hours, though it depends on how well you do with its rhythm sections. They’re cleverly constructive, asking players to memorise and repeat a short melody that fits neatly within the rest of the game’s music. Displayed in a circle, players will need to follow a series of icons, pressing the left or right trigger as indicated. These sections start off fairly easily, but soon ramp up in difficulty.
By default, there’s no guide; it’s up to you to learn the beat and hit the button at the right time. It’s sometimes easier said than done – particularly getting the first note in any sequence – and so if you continually fail, a guide – a small marker that moves through the notes as you need to press them – will eventually pop up to help you. You can turn the guide on permanently, which is very helpful, though it blocks out the ability to earn some achievements. However you decide to play there’s thankfully no fail state – if you miss a note you’ll just keep playing until you get it right.
Playing on PS5, A Musical Story also makes great use of the console’s DualSense functions. Strangely, you’re instructed to use L1/R1 buttons to play, but the triggers work too. And by using the triggers, you get to experience extra feedback thanks to the DualSense’s capabilities. When holding down longer notes, for example, you’ll feel resistance under your fingertips that releases as the note comes to an end. It’s a really nice touch that helps draw you further into the experience.
Despite its brevity, A Musical Story is a game that will stick with you long after you’ve completed it. Its sumptuous artwork, simple yet incredibly emotive, will leave a lasting impression, though not as much as the fantastic soundtrack, which will pulse through your head long after you’ve turned it off. Combining a narrative driven experience with engaging rhythm-led gameplay, the result is something rather special, unlike anything you’ll have played before.
A Musical Story Review – GameSpew’s Score