For a game that is primarily about drumming, Gal Metal has a weird premise. You are a teenage boy who gets abducted by aliens and forced to share the body of a teenage girl. You then have to drum with her metal band in order to stop the aliens from destroying the Earth.
Suitably, this story is told through a manga-style comic. It’s weird, but it explains why you have to learn to play the drums from scratch despite being good enough to be in a band.
The majority of the gameplay is the drumming you do with your band. The tutorial is simple enough – you learn how to use your two Joy-Cons as drumsticks and learn a very basic rhythm. You progress to more complex patterns by practicing with your band or on your own.
Unlike a lot of music-based games, you get a lot of freedom to do pretty much whatever you want with the song. Once you’re actually playing, the game doesn’t tell you what you should be doing. After you’ve learned a couple of patterns, it’s up to you to fit them in with your music however you think they best fit.
For this reason, it feels like Gal Metal is targeted at people who are already musically inclined and have a decent sense of rhythm. It’s not the kind of game that holds your hand at all. The goal is not to get each song exactly right by following along with a set pattern, as you would in games like Guitar Hero. Instead, it feels more about how happy you are with the beat you’ve created when the game plays back the video of your song.
There is a points system in place for each gig-cum-battle against the aliens, so victory is not entirely about your own satisfaction. You get more points for correctly performing various rhythms in time with the rest of the song and extra points for combos. But it’s easy enough to blast through at least the first few battles just by flailing your arms around and hoping for the best. It will sound awful, but you’ll win.
Each gig is followed by a return to the manga storytelling, which shows how the alien invasion encroaches on society. The drumming is also broken up by strategic sections in which you can develop your skills and characteristics by working or hanging out in different places around town, or choose to practice your drums more. This doesn’t have a huge impact on your score, but it does offer some character development and world-building.
It can take a little while to get used to the motion controls, especially if you’re expected to hit something. But it’s not too bad easing into it with the first simple rhythms you learn.
Gal Metal is a game for people with very specific interests. You don’t get, for instance, the option of playing other instruments in the band. The story is told through cute manga panels in an all-girls’ school. The mini-games take place in a small town and teenage girls’ group chat.
It’s definitely unique and if you do have a taste for rhythm, there’s plenty in this game that will challenge and entertain you.