Release Date: November 20, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Over the years, I’ve attributed the Deemo series to hours of relaxing piano rhythm gameplay. I mainly played the game on the PlayStation Vita, and I still return to it now and then when I need a break from deadlines. It’s a great way to spend 10 to 20 minutes of my day tapping along to catchy songs, which is the exact opposite of what DEEMO: Reborn on PlayStation 4 requires of the player. Alongside the rhythm game elements, players are now required to solve puzzles and interact with the world of Deemo. Thankfully, this is a world worth exploring as its many secrets kept me glued to the screen long past the notes faded away.
DEEMO: Reborn begins as it usually has, a girl falls from a window on the roof of a strange place. There, she meets someone who she calls Deemo, a tall shadowy figure who can typically be found sitting at the piano. Players can freely explore this world as they pick up pieces of sheet music for later use. Each room in this world holds a few secrets that lead to more sheet music and often more mysteries.
The narrative is progressed through hitting milestones during the rhythm portions of the game and unlocking new music through the puzzle sections. It ends up extending play sessions, given that if you get bored of one event, you can go and do something else. What works in the game’s favor is how pleasant this world is to explore. Each room holds small clues and insights into this mysterious place, and its fun to poke around and investigate. Surprisingly, even when I was messing around, I ended up unlocking new music.
I should probably say that DEEMO: Reborn hasn’t become my favorite way to play this series and depending on whether you have a PlayStation VR or not, you may feel the same way. DEEMO: Reborn seemingly has two different versions, standard and VR. Each offers a different experience, and each has their strengths and weaknesses.
I’ll start with the advantages because I do enjoy what this game is trying to do. In standard mode, players can freely explore the world as they please. They have full control of the camera and can look closely at objects and the scenery. VR mode has players hold two PlayStation Move controllers in their hands and allows them to tap along with the piano keys. Additionally, some puzzles are a little less tedious because you can freely look around while completing them if you need to double-check something.
Where standard mode lacks is in the rhythm sections. To put it bluntly, the controller doesn’t work for the precision that these songs need. Pressing a button takes too much effort compared to tapping, and while it does get easier over time, I had a tough time getting to a comfortable point. I continually felt like I’d rather be playing these songs tapping on a screen than trying to map out the top half of a controller.
As for the VR mode, well, my arms got tired pretty after a few songs, but the rhythm sections were far more entertaining and fun. Sadly, exploring isn’t as impressive as it is in the standard mode because you’re locked to a stationary camera as you point at things the girl needs to interact with. As I said, both modes have their strengths.
To progress the narrative, players will need to reach milestones by playing music. The music in the game magically makes a tree grow that can help the girl reach the roof and return home. In this regard, playing music is essential, and with multiple difficulties, you should find something that works for you. However, newer songs make the tree grow faster, so you’ll also need to acquire new sheet music by completing puzzles.
Puzzle designs are all unique and not impossible to figure out. Some of them came when I was just curious as to what would happen if I turned off all the lights. They are all clever, and they all unlock a way to progress the narrative. Some of the later puzzles do require a little bit of thought, but the game typically helps you out enough to get through them all.
Interestingly, you can play either the standard or VR versions of the game on the same save file, but the songs are counted as totally new tracks. That means if you have a VR headset, you could grow your tree a bit faster than those without it.
The soundtrack is amazing. There are a lot of my favorites making a return, and some I haven’t even played yet. Given that I can play some of these songs on muscle memory alone, it was interesting to go into this game blind once again.
DEEMO: Reborn is more of an experience than a rhythm game. The exploration elements and world-building far outway playing music in this title, and in the end, I was okay with that. Sadly, the conversion to a standard controller just never felt right to me, and I was stumbling on every song, which I wasn’t at all used to. The VR version of the game is probably the better one for rhythm game fans, but those playing the standard version can enjoy exploring this strange world through the eyes of this lost little girl.
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