Melatonin is a new rhythm-based game from Half Asleep Games that tasks players with clicking to the beat as they play through a night’s worth of dreams.
When I first signed on for this dreamlike experience, I expected a Guitar Hero-like game augmented by simple, lovely, hand-drawn backgrounds. However, what I found was a much more unique experience that tasked me to hit the beats of the music without the clear visual cues most rhythm games lean on. Rather than have the customary visual overlaying its background with the key pushes sliding across the screen, the game uses its background animations to help the player keep the beat while trusting the player’s ear and sense of timing to do most of the heavy lifting.
Luckily, before throwing you into each level, Melatonin does use a more standard interface style graphic to run the player through a practice mode that shows them which keys on the keyboard or buttons on the controller they’ll be using as well as letting them match audio and video cues to each. Then, once the player feels confident enough that they have the swing of it, the true test begins. But while the practice gets you ready, it doesn’t reveal all the tricks, and players will want to stay on their toes throughout each of the game’s levels.
While there is a steady ramp-up in difficulty throughout Melatonin, there will likely be a significant variance in just how challenging the game starts depending on how keen your ear is. As someone with terrible timing and nearly no sense of rhythm, even the earliest levels required repeated play-throughs to get the ranks I’d need to advance to the next challenge. But eventually, I just couldn’t get the timing down at all. Luckily, Half Asleep Games had me covered with some helpful aids to get me through the game.
At first, the only help I needed to navigate the game’s beats was a bit of extra leeway on my button presses. Turning on the Wiggle Room option gave me enough spare time in the early levels to push on with some added effort. Eventually, this proved to be inadequate. To get me through the last handfuls of levels, I opted into having the visual overlay, which is used for the practice runs, up at all times. This allowed me to get through the game’s last stretches, though it still wasn’t a cakewalk. Happily, for whom it may concern, turning on these aids does not affect trophy rewards as such modes sometimes do—there are no penalties for playing how you want or need.
All of this challenging gameplay is woven into Melatonin‘s lovely visuals. Every level moves to the relaxed beat of hand-drawn visuals as the player helps the game’s central character navigate their dreams. The charming graphics wonderfully displays a series of situations, many of which could only be found in the world of dreams. From swatting flying alarm clocks with a baseball bat to catching donuts launched from winged pizza boxes, the scenarios that play through the backgrounds of each level are as varied as they are artfully crafted. These visuals go in pitch-perfect synch with the laid-back original soundtrack that each level plays out to. The music is a low-key element that is easy to overlook but greatly enhances the overall tone of the game.
When all is said and done, Melatonin delivers challenging gameplay and creative, hand-crafted visuals. Combined with a chill soundtrack, this game will relax your soul even as it tests your skills.
Melatonin is available for PC on December 15th and is coming to Nintendo Switch at a later date.
- Rating - 8/108/10
Melatonin delivers challenging gameplay and creative, hand-crafted visuals. Combined with a chill soundtrack, this game will relax your soul even as it tests your skills.