I was a little off on whether to call this a review, or a preview. It matters specifically because looking at it in different lenses will explain how I feel about what is all presented here. So for the sake of this write-up, let’s call it a preview, kinda. Maybe.
UNBEATABLE developers D-CELL Games recently enjoyed a striking Kickstarter success in getting the financial push to continue its game’s journey, and with that has started to release chunks of an episodic side-story to give players an opportunity to try the gameplay and to obtain little nuggets of information in relevance to plot for the upcoming full release in 2023. The first batch of content is the [white label], and provides a 1-2 hour snack of loud noises, fun gameplay, and shaky framework.
Our main protagonist and lead singer, Beat, after some moments of self-inspection and nonchalant rummaging through pamphlets makes their way to band practice, if not a little later then the band expected. After some actual band practice in the form of a one song tutorial, you’ll be set into the main menu where 12 songs are available to play, with multiple difficulties ranging from the pedestrian Beginner to the aptly named Unbeatable difficulty.
When picking through certain songs, memories of Beat’s wobbly past with the struggles of music and self-image paint a portrait of a troubled character with more to learn than just the chords of their old guitar. After a handful of these, Beat catches up with themself at an empty train station, and as the train comes along…something should happen I suppose, but the scene never triggered anything else once the train showed up, and there was no way to go back to it, so my trip down memory lane was sullied.
But UNBEATABLE brought me right back in with its original soundtrack and fast-paced gameplay. There just isn’t enough punchy 90s-2000s rock in rhythm games outside of custom Clone Hero tracks, and the work of Peak Divide shifts the tempo to 4th gear and is an absolute blast to listen to. Sprinkle in a few remixes that pull in piano-centric tunes and EDM bangers and UNBEATABLE presents a pleasing palette of musical depth to be confident of when the game’s future soundtrack is fully released.
If you’ve ever played Muse Dash or anything close to it, you’re in good company. Enemy notes will pour in on beat with the vocals or instrumentals on a top and bottom row. Tapping on cue will have Beat and the band slash and bash the enemies away, raising your combo and points while keeping an up to date percentage completion ala In The Groove as close to 100% as you can hope for. Different enemies will fill the higher difficulties: ones that require multiple timed hits, obstacles to avoid by jumping into a different lane, or big boys that give extra points by slapping the living Hell out of it like a Taiko no Tatsujin drum fill. Hits feel chunky when combined with a drum bass or heavy vocals, though the sound of a confirmed hit can sometimes be louder than some of the songs and can be hard to keep on beat at times.
For a free-to-play victory lap of its successful funding, [white label] is a promising introduction to the world of UNBEATABLE. While there isn’t a lot of plot explained, and the world outside the stages is unpolished: the gameplay is rewarding and exuberant and delivers on its purpose of getting me hyped for more standalone side-story releases on the road to the Kickstarted title’s full release in 2023.
Previewed, Reviewed? Kinda. Maybe. On Steam.