Every so often a game comes out that’s just so bloody wacky that I can’t help but to get intrigued by it, and that’s exactly what happened with Gal Metal. I mean, a game where you fight off a horde of invading aliens through the power of music (specifically drumming)? It’s certainly pretty ‘out there’ as far as video game concepts are concerned. Thankfully, it’s as enjoyable as it is bizarre, though it’s a bit light on content for those hoping for a meaty rhythm game experience.
Gal Metal’s story involves aliens invading Earth because they’re angry about all the ‘terrible’ metal music that humanity has been sending out to space. Of course, that metal music is also their weakness, and fortunately you just so happen to take the role of a drummer in the school metal band. Perfect, right?
Wrong. See, Gal Metal isn’t just happy to stick with the already weird premise of having aliens holding a huge grudge against metal music, but it also has the main character (who’s female) end up fusing with a boy, leaving you in a situation where there’s a boy trapped in your mind with you. Yes, it’s bloody strange, but it makes for a wacky and fun tale where you’ve got to balance out your musical and social life together in order to stop the impending alien threat.
The main aspect of Gal Metal’s gameplay sees you drumming across thirteen different gigs, with the player having to use the Joy Con’s motion control functions to literally drum their own beats for the songs. Yes, this means wagging your hands around, and yes, it is actually a lot of fun.
You’re not given a direct beat to follow like a typical rhythm game though, but actually have to decide which drum beat you want to use yourself – sure, it’ll show you a few specific patterns you can put to use, but it’s up to you to decide if it would fit in well with the song that the band is playing. As you progress through the game you’ll learn more and more different patterns (some of which require you to ‘drum’ the Joy Con in a specific way or hold down a button whilst you do it), whilst you’re also able to improvise if you’re feeling particularly creative.
You’ll earn points based upon how well your beat works within each song in the game and in fairness it’s made clear on the screen if you’re doing well. You’ll earn additional points for varying up your beats, pulling them off with perfect timing, and synchronising everything together too, so you never want to stick to just one drumming pattern if you want the most success in-game. Gal Metal is certainly one of those games where it’s easy to play but difficult to master though, especially since there are so many different techniques and patterns to get on top of.
One thing that might put off some players is the lack of direction though, with most rhythm games at least directing the player with what beats they’re supposed to be hitting. Whilst Gal Metal is simple enough to play, there were plenty of times where I wasn’t sure what drumming patterns I should be using, whilst the fact that it’s difficult to even remember some of them didn’t help either. It does at least ensure there’s a lot more freedom and depth to the experience, but a little bit more direction would’ve been appreciated at times.
Besides the drumming, you’ll actually take control of the protagonist’s social life in-game too. Between gigs you’ll have a set amount of energy which can be used to spend time with friends, go shopping, or even get a job – it’s kind of like Persona in a way, though in a much simpler format. Each activity can affect your stats and skills in different ways so the game’s social aspect is definitely one you’ll want to pay attention to, whilst the fact that it diversifies the gameplay experience outside of just drumming was appreciated too. It’s certainly not the sort of thing you’d expect to see in a rhythm game, but it was a nice touch.
Whilst Gal Metal’s combination of drumming and socialising is a lot of fun, it’s a short-lived experience. There are only thirteen gigs to complete after all, and with each one only comprising of one song you’ll see everything that the game has to offer pretty quickly, with my playthrough lasting around four hours. There aren’t any additional modes that are worth spending time with post-completion either, with the ‘Free Play’ just letting you play through previously completed songs and a complete lack of multiplayer. It’s a shame really, because I had a lot of fun playing the game – there just wasn’t anything there to keep me coming back once I was done with the story, which is pretty unusual for a rhythm game.
One thing that is worth mentioning is that you don’t have to use the motion controls in Gal Metal, with button-based and touchscreen controls also included if you prefer. I’ll admit it, I was tempted to play with the button controls at one point for convenience (and the fact that it’s a lot easier when playing on the Nintendo Switch’s portable mode), but the motion controls were so intuitive and fun that it was hard to move away from them. If you don’t want to sit there hitting a make-believe drum set though, at least you can just hit the shoulder buttons of your Joy Cons instead.
Developer: DMM Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch