The rhythm is gonna get you.

My favorite thing about attending E3 was always the element of surprise—those games that weren’t on my radar, but became my favorites of the show. Had there been an E3 this year, and had KONAMI been there, Super Crazy Rhythm Castle would’ve been that surprise.

Developed by Second Impact Games—the company behind Super Crazy Guitar Maniac Deluxe—Super Crazy Rhythm Castle is, as its name implies, a rhythm game. But rhythm games are typically neither super nor crazy. Nor super crazy. However you read the superlatives, those elements come from the game’s surrealistic atmosphere and puzzle elements.

The premise is that you and up to three friends are storming a castle in an attempt to steal the crown of the evil King Ferdinand. But this is no ordinary castle…are they ever in video games? King Ferdinand defends himself with numerous traps and challenges that you must overcome to proceed, and you’re going to need a strong sense of rhythm to do so.

My demo began with selecting an avatar; of course, I chose the one that somehow reminded me most of Floyd from The Muppets. Other players can hop in at either regular or pro skill levels, and this can be changed throughout the course of the game. I’ll get back to that in a bit.

The initial story introduces you to a few key characters that will help you get started, but are otherwise fairly cryptic. I’m sure their purpose becomes known the further you play. The rhythm component is quickly introduced, and it plays out as you’d expect. Colored indicators slide down the equivalent of a guitar neck, and you’re tasked with tapping the right button as they hit the baseline. The buttons are clearly defined on the bottom of the screen, but they’re also easy to remember: L, Y, and R on regular, L, right D-pad, Y, and R on pro.

Tapping with the rhythm wasn’t too difficult, at least in the early battles I faced, but the game becomes complicated by tasks that must be completed during the rhythm battles. In one level, for example, a Burton-esqe (or Seussian?) arm reaches across the screen, obscuring the rhythm column. Worse, it breaks free colored blocks that also get in your way. You and your partners will have to determine who cleans the blocks up and who continues with the rhythm component. Should you all clean things up? Maybe no one, if you’re still managing to keep the beat going despite the obstructions. Communication is key to making sure you complete the level with enough stars to advance.

Between 30 such levels (plus some hidden bonuses), players traverse a colorful world composed of musical instruments. Keyboard bridges tinkle as you run across. Horns toot as they lift you to higher levels. The world design is fantastic and consistent, making it a joy to explore.

Now, when it comes to rhythm games, developers can go one of two ways with the music: original material or licensed songs. Super Crazy Rhythm Classes uses the former, which I kind of like. Although playing along to familiar songs can be fun, it’s not if you don’t like those songs. I’m happier to play along to music genres I normally don’t like because I have no opinion of the material. That said, we were told at the presentation that Konami fans will recognize a few of the tunes.

And how about the challenge? I didn’t find the rhythm portions to be at all difficult at the start, causing the game to bump my skill level from Regular to Pro. I wasn’t prepared for the switch from three buttons to four, and saw my accuracy drop from 99% to 77%. With a little more practice, however, I’m sure I’d get that back up. Considering the teamwork component of the rhythm challenges, this is actually one of the more forgiving rhythm games out there…at least at the onset. And if you just want to practice the rhythm battles without the obstructions of the story, a Music Lab is set up for that exact purpose.

I would’ve been happy with another hour or two of demo time with Super Crazy Rhythm Castle, but the schedule didn’t allow it. So, I’m instead left to anticipate its full release on the Switch. The date for that has not yet been announced, but hopefully it won’t be much longer before we’re all stormin’ the castle.

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