Title: Infinite Guitars
Developer: Nikko Nikko
Release Date: March 30, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Humble Games
Genre: Rhythm RPG
It may seem strange, but I’ve never been more torn about a game than Infinite Guitars. On the one hand, you have a stylistic and cool adventure within a rhythm RPG genre. On the other, nothing really works, and all the various systems make the experience as repetitive as hearing someone sing Hotel California at a karaoke bar.
Infinite Guitars is set in a world destroyed by a mech war that has come and gone. Now, humans survive as scavengers across several floating landmasses. Here we meet a very bored and lethargic JJ, who can’t be bothered to leave her airship because she wants to play guitar. However, as fate would have it, it seems there’s more to her uncle and her than she initially thought.
These early narrative movements are engaging, but I never felt connected to JJ. She just doesn’t seem to carry the plot the way a band leader should. After an encounter with some people from her uncle’s past, she must drop the lazy attitude to save her uncle and stop whatever these mech-wielding weirdos have in store for her. Luckily, she has a few mech-enabled abilities and a few others who rally alongside her cause to complete her quest.
The plot ends up having a few late-game twists that stem from whether or not JJ is on the right side of all this, but the game is about her finding a place in this world. She essentially learns how to exist through tragic moments and not give up. Her bandmates, Kaylee, Sam, and Ru, add to a few realizations and expand the worldview a bit, but their overall inclusion in the group came with very little fanfare, which could stem from how they struggle to find an identity within the plot.
The narrative mainly revolves around JJ, which is made evident because she’s the only character that gets to roam around the overworld. I think this limits any attachment to the other characters, who will randomly just speak up to add some quips to a conversation. Further, there isn’t personalized equipment for the characters, making their addition seem more like additional HP for battles, which is caused by how the battles are set up.
During a battle, players encounter an enemy on a map, and one of the party members will randomly be chosen. The screen transitions, allowing players the chance to dodge attacks. However, this scene is the same for any character, with the same run-and-dodge sequence. I would have enjoyed it if they had a unique skill to bring to this section because they feel like JJ palette swaps.
The next phase is the player’s turn, where you can choose a character and an ability. Damage output can be improved by charging the ability up to three times, where charges are collected during actions, perfect dodges, and on the field. After selecting a skill, a rhythm-mini game takes place, which can limit the damage output if you get something wrong.
This causes battles to overstay their welcome very quickly. Completing each phase takes too long, and encounters happen way too often, causing the cool animations and rhythm portions to weigh on the enjoyment. In addition, you’ll have to play sections of these songs for each attack, so you’re forced to stay engaged in these long-winded fights to increase the damage of attacks and get them over with.
This also limited my willingness to level grind and instead pass up all the enemies I could. It’s mainly possible to do this because you can totally dodge all damage in a fight if you time it perfectly, so your level doesn’t matter. Further, duets add to the damage output of attacks allowing another character to play a riff, but this also extends the rhythm portions of the battles, so it’s a double-edged sword.
Outside of that, the battle animations are incredibly cool. Abilities have optional effects like debuffs and buffs, but they typically consume HP or scrap to utilize. The game explains how using these mech abilities drains the life away from the users, but you could be stuck in a battle for a while if JJ is the only usable character, but she can only use her least powerful attack due to not having enough HP.
On the field, you’ll have to endure more rhythm sections to open doors, but the maze-like structure of the map is hard to navigate because it doesn’t show obstacles. These rhythm sections are the same as the battle riffs, so be prepared to go through them a lot. Further, damage can be received while navigating where missiles and pulse areas-of-effect will knock you down unless you dodge. These moments are incredibly hectic, and I could never really get the timing right, so I died more to these hazards than the battles.
It adds flair to the exploration parts, so you aren’t just solving light puzzles to progress, but I honestly don’t think the game needed these gimmick areas. It caused more play fatigue than enjoyment when I wanted to progress the narrative to see what JJ and her crew would do next. There are several difficulty options that allow players to customize their experience, so you make the rhythm portions and battles easier.
Other aspects of gameplay have players interacting with characters. For example, responses will add and subtract Attack and Defense stats for some reason, but the choice doesn’t show what stats will change. I honestly didn’t pay much attention to this because it doesn’t make that much of a difference in battles.
Character animations and design are at an all-time high in Infinite Guitars. The pure enjoyment from watching the ability transformations and various cutscenes made me want to push through all the monotony to experience. This game is pure style from beginning to end, which includes its catchy soundtrack and overall design.
Infinite Guitars fails to establish a cast of characters you care about, which is enhanced by the gameplay that puts the spotlight on JJ, leaving the supporting members to be the backup dancers. There’s little staying power for the cast, and the respective nature of various systems causes tour fatigue much too early. You’ll stay for the punk rock presentation, but you won’t be requesting an encore.
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