With an intriguing mixture of simplistic, geometric visuals and vastly varied soundtrack, along with its rudimentary rhythm-action/platforming gameplay, Seaven Studios’ Inside My Radio sounded like something akin to a dream come true for me right from the outset, but big expectations so often lead to even bigger disappointments. Now, was this the case here? Well, to some extent, yes, but that’s not to say that there isn’t a lot to love about this unconventional take on an established genre, which, if you’ll allow me the opportunity to explain, is probably the reason that many of you might still want to pick this up.
In Inside My Radio players have free reign to move left and right (the game is played out on a two dimensional plane) as and when they decide to do so, but the more complex movements such as jumping, dashing and slamming have to be actioned to the beat of the music. To do this consistently across the varied tunes that comprise the soundtrack, the game demands that the player becomes one with the music, though to make this less taxing, the score doesn’t really employ any rhythmical gymnastics to trip players up. As a result, progress shouldn’t prove too difficult for the most part, leaving the most trying area of the game as the final boss which has no checkpoints mid-battle, so any mistake will see the player sent back to the start of the confrontation, which can prove to be a tad frustrating.
Personally, I didn’t feel too much of a connection to the music, which I found to be a tad overly simplistic, and the sounds that one can generate to add to these are extremely limited and repetitive, so as an exploration of synaesthesia, it certainly falls short of the high water mark left by UGA’s Rez. However, that’s not to say that Inside My Radio doesn’t have its moments, because at times it can be a wonderful work of art, such as later on in the game when you see trees whose boughs grow and move in time with the music, it’s really such a simple addition but it works wonderfully and makes for a more immersive experience on the whole.
A nice addition to the game is the score multiplier, which increases as actions are completed to the beat, this naturally results in superior scores and, for some players, will surely ignite a drive to secure the perfect run-through of each level. Missing a beat though comes with a punishment, not only does the score multiplier reset, but a time penalty is instilled, again challenging players to attempt a perfect run, but without hampering the experience for anyone else.
However, there are a further two key areas out with the soundtrack where Inside My Radio seems to fall short, its core mechanics and the general look of the game. In aesthetic terms, it’s a bit of a disappointment, whilst as I’ve said, it does have its moments, the overall art style is actually rather bland. Most levels opt for cold, metallic tones that don’t quite match up to the mood of the music, which sees them lacking the inventiveness of Rez (a cruel comparison really) which sees the visual design become more or less quite forgettable come the end of the game. This is particularly disappointing as, with sufficient visual and audio allure, it might have been able to hide the remaining shortcomings out of sight, at least partially anyway, but this was not to be.
There are more complex platforming sections in the game where the dash move is central to progressing, yet sadly the manoeuvre simple doesn’t feel as accurate as it should be, regularly sending players plummeting to their doom in a bottomless descent. Of course, this doesn’t prove to be too frustrating as it can be easily worked around, but it really shouldn’t be here. Likewise, I felt on the whole that the entire move set could probably do with a slight tightening up, nothing felt quite as responsive as it should be, but again, this is just a minor niggle that doesn’t get in the way of the player’s enjoyment. However, there are points in the game where it’s never really explained to you what you’re actually doing, be these rhythm based puzzles or confrontations with irate, leather-clad morons, at least with the former it simply tasks the player with pressing the B button in time to a visual pattern, though guessing when the action is required is not exactly pointed out at all, leaving it to the player to learn through trial and error.
There is a definite upside to the game, its price. Coming in at only £11.99, Inside My Radio – despite being rather short – still represents good value for money, after all, a trip to the Odeon to see some braindead flicker will stripped you of more cash, and besides, even the gibberish story here is bound to be superior to what you’ll find in a most modern films. The story mode can be bested in roughly two to three hours, but there’s a time attack mode, not to mention the age-old pursuit of high scores, which’ll probably keep most players going for some time. Sure, a multiplayer component would have been nice, but for what you pay, there’s precious little to complain about really.
There’s a level of variety to Inside My Radio’s gameplay that I didn’t expect from it; with diverging levels of platforming (from the most overtly simple to the increasingly taxing), boss battles, puzzles and mini-games (the Big style piano being a highlight of the game, though this is perhaps also let down by loose controls), there really is something for everybody here. It may not reach the artistic heights that I would have liked, but it’s certainly cheap enough, which makes it a perfect purchase for a night where you just want nothing more than to chill out. After all, if you don’t go into it with the expectations that I did, it might just have enough about it to surprise you.