Voez: top of the charts or a one-hit wonder?

Music is one of those things that is everywhere, from being in the background of our day-to-day lives, to supporting the shows we watch and even acting to elevate the games we play to the realms of a masterpiece. So, what happens when you strip away a game to leave only the music, and then make a game using that as your core? Well, the short answer is you end up with rhythm games. Every game in this saturated genre is unique, trying to change up the formula, with emphasis being placed on a single type of music, ranging from vocaloid (Hatsune Miku: Project Diva franchise), to rock music (Guitar Hero franchise). More often than not, these games tend to have a fatal flaw, that being they’re fun to play for short bursts, but grow boring quickly either due to a lack of challenge, or because of an unassailable difficulty curve it becomes increasingly frustrating. As a result, most rhythm games have fallen into a niche market, finding homes on portable devices, be that games consoles, or on mobile. So then, this time on our trip down the otaku rabbit hole, we’ll be checking out the rhythm game Voez by Rayark Games on the Nintendo Switch, a game previously exclusive to mobile, to see if this game is one worthy of its cult following, or if it’s just another bum-note in a long line of rhythm games. With that, get ready because it’s time to buckle up and dive right in.

Gameplay

Voez is pretty standard faire for a rhythm game, where you have to hit the notes on screen in time to the rhythm of the song you’re playing, with a perfectly timed tap resulting in a higher score. There are only four main note types that you need to keep track of in this game, with some hybrid versions of these notes. These notes are the tap note – a red diamond where you tap as the note reaches the bar at the bottom of the screen; the hold note – a black bar that you need to hold for as long as it’s on screen; the swipe note – a blue arrow that you have to swipe in the direction it points and, finally, the slide note – a small white circle that normally appears in large numbers, that you simply have to slide over as they reach the bottom of the screen. Now, while this probably sounds really complicated, I can guarantee that you’ll pick it up fast. After you’ve got these mechanics down, then Voez really comes alive.

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The general screen layout during gameplay with tap notes and hold notes

What’s truly unique about Voez, however, is the notes and their dynamic nature. The columns of notes will dance around as you play in time to the music, which can be quite off-putting the first time you see it. This now means that you need to keep track not only of the notes, but of where those notes will land as they progress down the screen, adding a new and unique gameplay element to the mix.

Control Schemes

The Nintendo Switch version of Voez has two control schemes that you can choose between as you play: touchscreen mode or controller mode. As you’d assume, the touch screen mode means that you have to touch and tap the screen as you play, whereas in controller mode you can use the button inputs instead. However, do not be fooled. If you want a well-rounded rhythm game experience, I would highly advise against using the controllers. Due to the game being a port of the mobile version, the use of buttons has been added purely to allow for docked mode support. As such, you can just press one button and hit every note, regardless of where it is on screen. As a result, this will effectively break the game, removing most of the challenge and fun from your experience and I cannot recommend that you do this. If you value having the best possible experience out of this game, I implore you to use the touch controls instead.

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The two available control schemes

Difficulty

There are three difficulty settings in this game: Easy, Hard (this game’s normal difficulty) and Special, with every song assigned a number to define their difficulty – the higher the number, the more difficult the song. The issue with these difficulty settings, however, is that Easy is often laughably simple, offering little to no challenge, making the jump between Easy and Hard difficulty even more difficult for those unprepared. The Special difficulty is an interesting one. While some of the songs offer a decent challenge, others can be hellishly difficult and, strangely, some even offer less of a challenge than their Hard difficulty equivalent (e.g. one song being lv. 14 on Hard, but only lv. 9 on Special). As is the case with other rhythm games, don’t expect to master these songs on your first try. The practically limitless replayability offered here in trying to improve your score – aiming for that perfect 1 million points – will keep you coming back again and again.

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Example of the difficulty and level of a song (special, lv. 10)

An interesting choice made in this game was one to remove any form of punishment system for missing notes or playing badly. As a result, regardless of the difficulty level or your skill, you will never be given a game over for missing notes or taking a break mid-song. This, in theory, is a great idea as it helps newer, less experienced players by removing failure from the equation. It does mean, however, that button mashing is not punished either, and can mean in particularly difficult sections of a song, it is possible to get through just by mashing buttons/ tapping the screen indiscriminately and this isn’t helped a great deal by the generous input window each of the notes has. While this isn’t a massive deal, it does somewhat detract from the overall experience.

Music

Unlike on mobile, the Nintendo Switch version makes all songs available immediately upon completion of the tutorial song. As such, no games are locked behind a difficulty curve or paywall, so you can immediately experiment with what songs you enjoy and work on mastering them. On the flip-side, due to the extensive catalogue of music available in this game which, as of writing this review, totals 185 tracks, it can be a little overwhelming at first, but you’ll soon be picking your favourite songs and working towards playing them like a master.

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A small selection of the songs in Voez, helpfully arranged alphabetically

The music in this game is quite diverse with some vocaloid, J-pop, dubstep and even piano music thrown in for good measure. If you want to hear some of the best this game has to offer, then please check out the tracks ‘wish upon a shooting star’, ‘Shamisen Drives The Wind’, ‘Run Lads Run’, ‘Elsa de le bibliothèque’ and, my personal favourite, ‘Infinity Dream Chaser’. Regardless of your music taste, you’re bound to find something that will tickle your fancy. If I had one issue with the song selection, it would be that some of the tracks blend together and can really become indistinct from one another after a while, although this isn’t a common occurrence and is a really minor issue.

Visuals

The visuals of this game are a little hit or miss depending on your viewpoint. Each of the songs has some fantastic artwork in a variety of different styles and is stunningly beautiful. However, unlike many other rhythm games, Voez lacks any form of background cinematics during songs and instead relies on its dynamic gameplay to make up for this lack of visuals. The user interface is incredibly clean and streamlined, but this can seem a little sterile as a result. The lack of any extensive and vibrant visuals is a big drawback, however, as these visuals can often be a way to keep someone invested in these games. As a result, there are times where I found myself left wanting for something a bit more vibrant, but it never came.

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One of the beautiful song visuals

Story mode

That’s right, unlike many of its sister rhythm games, Voez has a story mode, although it’s not exactly a flashy affair. The story follows a group of students as they plan to set up a band through their day-to-day lives. The story is presented as a diary that you unlock entries for as you reach certain milestones in game, rewarding you with visual novel-like panels where you see a set of tweets/ text messages etc. accompanied by some truly gorgeous art work.

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Story mode panels that can be scrolled through to flesh out the story

The requirements for unlocking each story section are different from those in the original mobile version. As of writing this review, sadly I was unable to find the full list of requirements for the Nintendo Switch version. However, from the entries that I have unlocked so far, they tend to involve gaining a certain rank on a set number of songs at a given difficulty. As such, if you want to find out the fate of the story characters, you’ll have many, many hours ahead of you as getting the higher ranks can take a great deal of skill and luck. Whether this is something of interest or not is a very personal matter, but I still think it’s a very cool addition to this game.

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The diary screen displaying the unlock conditions for the next story element

Be warned, however, if you play this game with the sole intention of unlocking the story, then you’ll lose a lot of the fun that’s to be had in this game. The best way I can recommend you play is to try to improve as you play while having fun, and the story will undoubtedly unlock as you play.

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Practice makes perfect and getting a new best score is always a big plus

Additional content

Voez doesn’t have much in the way of additional content, although it does have the ability to use ‘keys’ gained from unlocking the story scenarios to unlock character icons to customise your overall experience. This is done in a gacha style where you use a key, a bird poops out a prize ball and you gain 3 random icons – which can either be new or repeats, depending on your luck.

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The gacha bird that gives you three new icons for a key

For any true completionists, this can be a nightmare, but in general is a nice little addition to make everyone’s gameplay experience unique.

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Just some of the available icons in Voez

Final thoughts

So, Voez is a funny little game that is both fun and frustrating. In small bursts, the game is technically excellent with a fantastic soundtrack. If you’re interested in the story, then the story unlock requirements stand as a progression block that demands a level of skill and dedication that, in my opinion, is not conducive to this style of game. However, this is definitely a fantastic game that feels as lively and vibrant as the music it uses, and is a fantastic game for fans of the genre. Newcomers, though, may find this game a little hard to get into with its minimalistic user interface and little in the way of incentive to keep them playing for prolonged periods. All things considered, then, with Voez and all of its ups and downs, I give it:

3.5 carrots3.5/5 Carrots!!

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with this game, despite the occasional frustrating moment, and plan on investing more time into it in future as it offers a relaxing rhythm game experience on the go with a huge catalogue of songs that definitely deserves some love and for people to give it a chance. With that, thank you once again for joining me on this trip down the otaku rabbit hole and I really hope you guys enjoyed. Until next time, keep it weeby!

Loplop x

DISCLAIMER: ALL IMAGES WERE GATHERED DIRECTLY FROM THE GAME. I DO NOT OWN ANY OF THE IMAGES USED IN THIS REVIEW.

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