Sequence is an interesting game. It is the first outing for indie video game developer; Iridium Studious. In fact, the original release was not on any major service, but just on X-Box Live Indie games. This service is home to games generally made by extremely small groups, with minimal budget, and often just for practice. In addition, it is a combination of a rhythm based game and an RPG. With such an interesting marriage of genres, it begs the question; can a game with such a clash of styles be worth playing?
The first thing to discuss with this game is the sound. It is the key part of any rhythm game. And, in this case, it is brilliant. Iridium Studios hired two artists, DJ Plaeskool and Ronald Jenkees, to do the music for this game. It is actually, to an extent, better than many other music games. Most music games pick popular music and try to match the gameplay to it, not caring whether it is good music for the game. In this case, the music was designed solely to be for this game. And it works. These songs, despite the varying styles, are all fun to listen to, they are inoffensive, and really make the game more fun. Sequence is a game that uses sound to maximum effect, as can be expected from a rhythm game. In addition, this game has a plot. The plot is generally two characters interacting; the protagonist, and his handler who is pretty much a voice from an intercom.
The plot is relatively slow, only advancing once a level is completed. However what makes up for it is the constant stream of jokes. These aren’t jokes that demean the plot, either. They’re the kind of jokes made by people who are just witty. A constant stream of quotable one-liners flows from the characters. In addition, the stage bosses are a pleasure to fight.
Even if the plot is rather basic, described as a “guy trapped in a mysterious dungeon that must figure out what is going on” sort of event but the sheer execution makes the game a pleasure. It is the kind of game that the player will replay again and again, just to see their favorite one-liners. It’s the kind of game where a script FAQ would be printed out, so it can be read like a novel. In short, this game trades length of script, and makes the trade worth it.
The gameplay as well is important, and this is also a success. The main principle of the gameplay is that the player plays DDR. Arrows come down, player hits the arrows in time with the music. Good things happen when the player hits notes, bad things happen when the player misses. It seems simple, and should be…but the game adds some interesting complications.
First, this is not a DDR versus mode match. The computer does not play by the same rules as the player. Instead, there are three windows. The player must play DDR in all three windows at the same time. This seems impossible, except for the twist. One window, the mana window, can safely be ignored. There is no penalty for missing. Instead, whenever the player hits a note, they gain MP. MP maxes out, so the player really only needs to use it when restoring after casting a spell. The second window is the defensive window. Every so often, and not in a constant stream, the enemy attacks. This gives the player plenty of time to shift windows, or cast their own spells in between the attacks, but not enough that it gets boring. As for the third window, that’s where attack spells are cast. The player has to hit a small series of notes perfectly, or your attack fails. This would be frustrating, but the tolerance for hitting is pretty generous, a good few spells have VERY few notes, and the game allows the player to practice as much as they want.
In the end it creates an interesting and unique main battle system. The only flaw with the game is the progression. The player progresses by gathering items from enemies and these items randomly drop. In short, the only way to progress is by grinding. Fortunately, this grinding is not too extensive. Most items drop after five matches, maximum. In addition, the player gets to choose which enemies they face, and when. So, they have control over the spawn rates to an extent. In addition, the gameplay itself is so fun that the grinding is an actual pleasure, not a problem. The equipment system uses the same crafting as progression, since progression is simply crafting a key. There is one more unique element. To craft, the player bids experience points and can even level down. This, as can be guessed, means the player has even more reason to grind, adding a bit of longevity to the game, even if it’s artificial longevity. Again however, the actual fun of the game makes up for it.
The graphics are also surprisingly good, and never feel low budget. The game uses still CG portraits, like a visual novel, or dialogue in Chantelise or Recettear. The trick is, the game never uses anything else.
Enemy sprites are portraits, characters are portraits, and the backgrounds are still. Some graphics tricks are used with attacks, usually slashes across the screen and such, but all in all, it’s still portraits. This is a clever graphics saving measure, as the portraits are beautiful, and the game never feels ‘cheap’. Even though, in practice, there’s practically no animation.
Final Call: All in all, this game is perfect. There’s just only one real flaw, and that’s made moot by the gameplay. There are no ways the game can be improved, and it’s a genuine joy to play. It’s never a trudge, always fun, and can be played for minutes or hours.
- Fun gameplay, good scripting
- Cheap, but surprisingly good graphics
- Flawless, and dirt cheap.
- Grinding. Lots of grinding.