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Melatonin review — A rhythm game unlike no other

Melatonin screenshot
Image: Half Asleep

We’re not sure we’ve ever played a game as effortlessly stylish as Melatonin. This rhythm game sports a washed-out, dreamlike 2D art style, brought to life with soft pastel colours and cartoons. Visually, it’s a world we simply want to get lost in. And technically, we suppose, that’s exactly what you do.

Well, sort of. You see, Melatonin takes place in the player character’s dreams. Each night, he drifts off either in front of the TV or tapping away at his laptop, taking him to a dreamworld that mirrors his real life. Eating food, visiting the gym, surfing social media — it all makes an appearance in his dreams. And it’s your job to navigate him through them safely.

This isn’t a platforming adventure, though. Each dream you need to get through in Melatonin takes the form of a rhythm-based challenge. There are over 20 levels altogether, each one having its own unique song and challenge. You’ll need to listen out for the beat, tapping the button at just the right time to match up with the action. Maybe tapping at the right time will result in you chomping down on a burger, or swiping left or right on a dating app. But to pass each one, you’ll need to be pretty accurate.

Melatonin screenshot
Image: Half Asleep

Melatonin is not easy. If rhythm doesn’t come naturally to you, you’ll find this rather difficult. Especially since, by default, button prompts won’t appear on screen: you’re expected to rely on your own ear for the beat and the actions playing out. Thankfully, a generous suite of assist tools makes things easier — you can adjust how lenient the game is to missed notes, and you can also have visible button prompts and an audible metronome.

We love that turning on any of these helpful tools doesn’t penalise players, either. You’re still eligible for trophies/achievements, and you can still unlock the hard versions of songs (which become available once you’ve beaten the standard version). And, despite its difficulty, Melatonin is the sort of game that’s just so charming you’ll want to challenge yourself to get better at it. Maybe you’ll start with numerous assist options turned on but, as you improve, you might want to turn them off.

Melatonin screenshot
Image: Half Asleep

It’s a worthy goal to work towards because playing Melatonin without relying on the on-screen button prompts feels rather special. Get really into it, and it feels like an almost trance-like state: just you, the music, and the gorgeous imagery on screen. Despite sitting somewhere in the same genre as the likes of Guitar Hero, it couldn’t be more different – in the best way possible.

There’s nothing else like Melatonin. This is a gorgeous rhythm game about dreams and the meanings within them — but even if you don’t want to read into it, there’s so much to enjoy in its challenging rhythm-based levels and pastel-coloured hand drawn art. Even if you find it tough, it’s an experience worth sticking with. You won’t regret it.


Melatonin review – GameSpew’s score
This review of Melatonin is based on the PS5 version of the game, with a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PS5, Switch and PC.
Editor in chief // Kim's been into video games since playing Dizzy on her brother's Commodore 64 as a nipper. She'll give just about anything a go, but she's got a particular soft spot for indie adventures. If she's not gaming, she'll be building Lego, reading a thriller, watching something spooky or... asleep. She does love to sleep.