Muse Dash review: Tenacious new tunes

The anime inspired rhythm game makes its way to the Nintendo Switch. Here's what we thought.

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Initially released in 2018 for mobile devices, Muse Dash is a music game heavily influenced by Japanese pop culture. Developed by PeroPeroGames and published by X.D. Network, Muse Dash combines Rhythm and action elements in attempt to create an exciting gameplay loop. Muse Dash follows the trend of previously released games getting ported to the Nintendo Switch (particularly indies). 

An enthralling world

The world of Muse Dash is charming and inviting. Every inch of this game is glamorous and in-your-face. The Japanese roots are on full display in Muse Dash with its Cute characters, vibrant colors, and unique settings. Even the enemies that you encounter are so cutely designed that I almost thought twice before punching and kicking them in the face. 

In Muse Dash you play as one of three members of a band, each with her own special design. You begin the game as Rin, the bassist. However, you can select to play as Buro or Marija the violinist in the options menu. Although there’s only three different playable characters, the three girls have a variety of unlockable costumes that will provide them with gameplay boosts or alterations. For example, Idol Buro receives 50% more XP after clearing a stage. The ability boosts get much more weirder as they go on. Rin has a sleepwalker outfit in which she fights automatically in every stage, and the player can not control her. These alternate styles can be unlocked by collecting different character chips, which are rewarded upon level completion. 

What really sets the tone for Muse Dash is the music itself. The large catalog of songs are upbeat and evoking of excitement. Several of the tunes are catchy and will have you rocking side to side or nodding your head. I’m not ashamed to say I found myself singing Iyaiya out loud more than once. The songs are fun, and Muse Dash weaves them into gameplay in a way that really raises the charm factor.

Follow my lead

As you make your way through a level in Muse Dash, you’re constantly jumping and punching in order to hit different enemies and notes. Each level is titled after a song, with that song working as a blueprint for the level's layout. The delivery of different notes in the song is synchronized beautifully with the appearance of different enemies. This is executed so well that you could close your eyes and probably still land a few perfects just by getting in rhythm with the music.

From the beginning, you have the option of choosing the difficulty when selecting a given level. Easy mode is the simplest to clear, while hard mode grants extra experience points. The catch is that stages don’t unlock until players reach a certain level, forcing you to go back and clear a stage on hard mode in order to rack up the exp needed to progress further. A master difficulty also exists for those that really crave a challenge. To play a stage on master difficulty, the player must first complete that level on hard mode with an S performance grade. The stages I played on master difficulty were a bonkers level of chaotic. I found merely completing these levels with any grade at all to be quite an accomplishment. 

I really appreciate how simple the control scheme in Muse Dash is. Rhythm games can quickly spiral into a state of convolution if you throw too much at a player, especially early on. In Muse Dash, practically everything you do requires just two different buttons. The PC version of the game uses the keyboard/controller, while the mobile version uses the touch screen. Thanks to the nifty little device that is the Nintendo Switch, players can choose which way they want to play Muse Dash.

Switch the beat up

Throughout my playthrough, I quickly concluded that the touch screen was a more precise way to control my character. Music games are all about accuracy and timing, and the tiny buttons on the Joy-Cons made gameplay awkward. I found that just using the gamepad and pressing the sides of the screen to go up or down was much more fluent and natural. Mark this down in the endless column of reasons the Nintendo Switch is a great place to play. it’s able to suit a wide range of gameplay options.

The port itself is very solid. Muse Dash isn’t a very demanding game as far as specs go, so the Switch doesn’t break a sweat running this Japanese rhythm game. The game feels best in handheld mode, where you properly utilize the touch screen. I wouldn’t recommend playing in tabletop or TV mode unless you have a pro controller. While the buttons are still small, the pro controller has a more traditional button layout in comparison to the flip flopped design of the two Joy-Cons.

As the levels went on, the difficulty naturally progressed. Much more notes and enemies began to fly at me at a faster rate. This was another reason I preferred playing Muse Dash in handheld mode over the two other options. Even the slightest input lag could have a noticeable outcome on your score in a game that’s so dependent on precision. After replaying a few levels, I noticed that I was performing better when in handheld mode than when playing on a TV. 

Encore

Muse Dash is an exceptional rhythm/action game that thrives on the Nintendo Switch. It takes advantage of the Switch in terms of the variety of ways to control and experience the game. Finely tuned gameplay is surrounded by a charismatic world that features a sizeable catalog of fun and exciting music.


This review is based on a Nintendo Switch code provided by the publisher. Muse Dash is available on PC, mobile, and Switch for $2.99.

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. Donovan is currently studying broadcast journalism at Bowie State University with hopes to join the Shacknews team full time after graduation. He is a huge Star Wars nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

Review for
Muse Dash
8
Pros
  • Clear cut gameplay
  • Large catalog of music
  • High level of replayability
Cons
  • Not much beneath the surface
  • Gameplay loop can get too repetitive
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