Game Review: Vibes (PSP Mini)

Ever since I tried a demo version of Guitar Hero: Aerosmith on the PS3, I’ve had a thing about music games. Not that I’m particularly good at them – I just love playing them! So since that time, I’ve bought all the Guitar Hero games for the PS3, gone back and bought the PS2 ones, got Band Hero, and even picked up a few of the Rock Band games as well as the full band kit for Guitar Hero, not to mention Gitaroo Man Lives for the PSP. Although I’ve never been anywhere near, and have no intention of ever letting a dance mat in this house whatsoever.

Anyway,the idea of a music game, whether it’s using a dedicated controller or making some use of the PS3, PSP or PS Vita always holds some appeal for me so straight away Vibes grabbed my attention, but being part of the Minis range, I asked myself whether it really could be any good or not. With disc based games having massive libraries of songs at their disposal, what could I really expect from a download of under 60Mb?

Vibes does away with any form of storyline like Guitar Hero or Gitaroo Man and gets straight into the music, That’s no bad thing to be honest as it’s not something that particularly bothers me. Unlike those two, there are no characters involved in the game at all – just the music itself and the notes that you need to concentrate on throughout each of the tracks meaning that you’re not distracted from the game at hand. The controls themselves owe more to Gitaroo Man than Guitar Hero – on screen there is a circle in the centre of the screen with an arrow in it. As the music starts to play, four symbols representing the PSP’s action buttons (remember that this was released as one of the Minis!) come towards it vertically or horizontally in synch with the music. As they reach the centre, you press the corresponding button to play the note, while pushing the analogue stick towards the note.

Sneakily, and to make the game more difficult, the notes don’t always match the positioning of the buttons of the controller so you really need to concentrate on what you are doing while you play the game. For example, while most of the notes will see the X notes at the bottom, occasionally they will come from the left or above, really throwing you off your stride! To make things even harder still, some notes will be accompanied by what can be best described as coloured tubes behind them. If you get these then you need to hold the button down and using the analogue stick follow the movement of the tube, keeping the arrow as central as possible.

There are a total of 13 tracks in the game (although some are locked initially and only become available once you complete the earlier songs). While there isn’t anything from mainstream artists that you would expect from most music games, they are all licensed tracks from smaller bands and cover an incredibly varied and eclectic mix of styles ranging from pop to house, classical to j-pop – there’s something for everyone! Each song has three difficulty settings although only Easy is available to start off with and to break up the monotony of the visuals, each is played against an animated 3D backdrop. Each of these is themed to link in with the music – for the j-pop track there are dancing sumo wrestlers for example! It’s all extremely well animated and certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The in-game settings are minimal, only allowing you to alter the music and effects volume, with the difficulty level being chosen during the game itself. The instructions are fairly brief but tell you everything that you need to know to get you into the game although there’s no tutorial or introductory stage to ease new players into the game.

The real issue I have with Vibes is that it is an incredibly tough game, even by music game standards. On some tracks, the “notes” come flying at you so fast that you really have no time to react and certainly the more casual gamer will have no chance with this one. There are three difficulty settings on this one and it really needed a fourth “beginner” setting to make this one more accessible to everyone. All of the Guitar Hero games offer five difficulty levels meaning that they can truly be played by everyone, no matter what your ability but sadly the same can’t be said for Vibes.

I did enjoy playing this initially but I soon found it far too frustrating and often wondered how I managed to get the scored I was achieving based on the performance I was putting into the game. I can’t fault the music or the variety or how the game works as it’s a refreshing take on the genre, but it’s not a game I think I’ll find myself coming back to. I can only truthfully recommend this to the most adept of gamers but for everyone else, it’s offering too little repeat play for the money. I only hope that if this ever gets a PS Vita makeover that we’lll get a revamp on the difficulty.

Simon Plumbe

At A Glance

  • Title: Vibes
  • Publisher: Laughing Jackal
  • System: PSP Mini
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • Local Multiplayer: No
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 58Mb


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