It’s been an excellent start to the year for people that love rhythm games, i.e., ME.
First, Hi-Fi Rush appeared as if from the heavens themselves, and then the small but mighty Rhythm Sprout: Sick Beats and Bad Sweets promptly followed in its wake. It could be easy for this Sprout to get swept away in the waves of this bigger release, but it’s a game about grooving vegetables, and they love water, so it’s an advantage.
I initially played the demo for Rhythm Sprout from developer Surt and publisher tinyBuild a few weeks ago and fell in love immediately. It has a wonderful cartoonish art style, an interesting incorporation of rhythm mechanics, and a large population of weirdos. Think Veggie Tales, but instead of religion, there’s EDM music.
You are Sprout, The Chosen Onion, the hand of King Brock, and a small tracksuited sleepyhead. The King has summoned you for one reason; an army of sugary sweets is approaching the Vegetable Kingdom, and only you can stop them. Also, Princess Cauliflower is missing, I guess. King Brock is pretty indifferent about her, to be honest. Thus begins your grand and groovy adventure!
Rhythm Sprout’s Gameplay Is a Delight
Each level has a new track to move to, and you can only advance through the level by hitting the right buttons to the beat. Each beat successfully boogied to get Sprout strutting toward his goal. Hitting a combination of left, right, and dodge notes moves you along your path until you reach your destination or come across some kind of horrible sentient sweet food. Then it’s time to battle to the beat; this is more where the dodge comes into play. Miss a dodge and get smacked in the head by a rogue confectionary. Every 20-beat combo regains you an HP point, and engaging Sugar Rush makes you semi-invincible for a time.
A beginner mode can be engaged on each level, so you don’t have to switch between left and right notes. One button will hit them all. You do still have to hit whatever your dodge button is. Once you have completed a level, you can return to it and replay it in various modes. Mirror mode will flip the screen and the buttons, Turbo mode speeds the song up, and Randomizer makes the type of notes appear random, so it’s more about visual cues than memorizing the music.
The NPCs in this game are a bonkers assortment of grotesqueries. Of course, Vegetable Kingdom is populated by veggie people. The King is some broccoli, you’re a tiny onion dude, and there’s a carrot farmer. Your enemies are various sweet treats like chocolate bars, cupcakes, marshmallows, and lollipops. They all have the same horrible face like someone has melded their sugary visages with those Groucho Marx disguise glasses—the ones with the fake nose and mustache.
The cavity-inducing hordes are led by King Sugar Daddy, who has literally made them in his image because he has no friends. This is a running theme of the game, with almost all of the main NPCs you come up against declaring their loneliness, asking you to be their friend, and talking about the Gilmore Girls. My favorite NPC is Count Arelle, a mustachioed mushroom living in a creepy mansion. He also turns into a mustache bat. A close second is Bapple, an adorable apple friend you meet just before a horrific battle breaks out.
The story itself is pretty shallow, but that isn’t really the point. The point is to listen to an eclectic range of music while stabbing cupcakes. The main story took me about three and a half hours to complete, but someone without arthritis and nerve damage would probably be able to do it quicker. As you go along the main story, you unlock the prequel story, bonus levels, and different skins and weapons for Sprout.
One of them is a Hello Neighbour costume. I do not want this.
The soundtrack varies from EDM to lo-fi chill to what I’m pretty sure is a Babymetal reference. There are also hints of Super Mario World in a few of the tracks. Whether or not that’s intentional or just my brain playing connect the dots, I don’t know. It is a GREAT soundtrack. The variety stops the stages from becoming dull; even having to replay levels when you fail doesn’t take the shine off.
A Desire for Accessibility
This leads me to a gripe of sorts. One that I am sure people will be grumpy on the internet about. I would like slightly more accessibility options. As I said, I have arthritis and recently sustained nerve damage in one hand. With some of the longer, more challenging fights, it would be nice to have the option to resume from a certain point in the battle instead of starting all over. Alternatively, an option to slow/decrease the number of notes sometimes would be nice.
This is a very specific issue for people with mobility and dexterity issues that wouldn’t impact most players, but I feel it’s worth mentioning. I am prepared for a certain subsection of gamers on the internet to come and tell me not to play the games if I can’t “handle” them. To those people, I will say, “No, I do what I want. Please get a life.”
Also notable are score capping and combo capping if you use beginner mode. I didn’t use beginner mode on every level but had to on some later ones. If you use beginner mode, you are locked out from achieving the highest combos and score rewards. I understand this from a challenge perspective, of course, but from an accessibility perspective, it’s less rad. How will I get all the tracksuits for my onion?!
Overall, I do love Rhythm Sprout. There’s a ton of replay value, and it has very silly characters and a great sense of humor. I even bought the soundtrack after I completed the main story. I will continue to play and replay it and attempt to gather a resplendent wardrobe for my little onion bulb buddy. It might take me a while, but it’ll be worth it.
Rhythm Sprout is available now on PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation.