Gal Metal is one of those almost games. On paper, it’s conceptually brilliant and totally insane, but in practice, it doesn’t quite hold together as well as you would hope. It’s still fun (as long as you can live with its technical limitations), and at its best, it’s a unique, utterly bonkers and hugely enjoyable rhythm game, but sadly, its inconsistencies ultimately make it hard to recommend.
Playing as a Japanese high school band, DMM Games’, Gal Metal combines basic, Persona 5 style social interactions with a more ambitious Samba de Amigo-esque collection of rhythm mechanics to deliver what is undoubtedly one of 2018’s more imaginative gaming experiences. Did I mention there are also space octopus? Well, yeah, there is space octopus too.
Gal Metal asks that you manage not only your social life, but also your band duties and the need to fend off the incoming alien invasion via rock music a la Mars Attacks. It’s a lot to handle, but something that the game does rather well. Sure, some of the dialogue drags on a bit, but it’s delivered in a charming manga-style fashion, and with the need to manage your energy levels each day, does deliver a level of micro-management that keeps some of the games’ more basic mechanics at least partly entertaining.
The social events themselves are very basic, but with successful completion adding to your personal attributes via collectible badges and special moments that are unlocked as you build up your relationship with your bandmates, the game always provides a reason to head to the café or arcade with friends. It’s all relatively simplistic from a mechanical level, but it does successfully deliver an interesting narrative that combines surprisingly well with the core rhythm-based gameplay. It’s still a rhythm game first and foremost, but it’s those social experiences and bonkers narrative interludes that truly set the game apart.
Despite the bizarre alien invasion and cool manga-inspired social interactions though, at its heart, Gal Metal is primarily a rhythm game, but even here, DMM Games have done things more than a little differently to their peers. Rather than hitting pre-determined notes in the style of Guitar Hero and Rock Band et al, Gal Metal has you playing any selection of drum-based rhythms that can be played in any order you see fit, as long as you complete the pre-loaded drum rhythms. It’s a cool twist on the traditional mechanics of the genre, one that allows for the kind of freedom and self-expression that is so often lacking from music video games.
Sadly, as great as all that sounds, the strong concept is ultimately let down by inconsistent and occasionally unresponsive motion controls. Using the joy-con controllers as drum sticks, you work to the beats that you have learned and play them throughout the unique sections that each song are split into. When it all comes together, it’s great fun, but far too often, the latency ruins your run and takes you out of the zone. It’s an infuriating limitation, and one that often derails an otherwise highly enjoyable experience.
Also, it should be noted that those pre-defined rhythms need to be learned as, outside of the practice sessions you have with your band, you’ll be expected to know them by heart. It does make for a more immersive and realistic experience (despite all of the octo-aliens), but it does require a certain level of commitment and will invariably prove a chore to players looking for a more relaxing gaming experience.
While the story mode itself is relatively short and the difficulty (despite the latency issues), rather limited, the inclusion of a Freeplay Mode does add both longevity and plenty of challenge for those looking to test their drumming skills and channel their inner Buddy Rich. Yes, the same issues invariably remain, but if you can learn to live with the latency and work around the limitations of the control scheme, there is plenty of room for experimentation and self-expression.
Gal Metal ultimately disappoints, but largely because the game it could have been is so close to being realised. The combination of social management with unique rhythm-based gameplay is inspired, and when it works, Gal Metal is not only a huge amount of fun, but unlike just about anything else on the market. The art style is striking, the story, while a tad too silly for its own good, is still loads of fun and the gameplay, when everything clicks in to place, is genuinely brilliant. Sadly, it so rarely clicks, and most of the time, you’ll find yourself fighting against latency and the limitation of the joy-cons. As I said at the top of the article – Gal Metal is an almost game, and unless DMM Games can somehow sort out the practicalities of its otherwise inspired mechanics, that is exactly how it will remain.
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Gal Metal Review
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Gal Metal is an almost game, and unless DMM Games can somehow sort out the practicalities of its otherwise inspired mechanics, that is exactly how it will remain.