Bring the Handheld Back Home
I, like many others, have never been much into playing mobile games. Trying to play a game on my phone’s screen through disappointing speakers, while using touch controls that block said screen just through the use of them, has never appealed to me. That, and I prefer console and PC games over handhelds and portables nowadays.
However, as a noted rabid fan of rhythm games, I can’t deny that there have been some great releases in the genre on mobile. I’ve played countless hours of Cytus and Voez, and I occasionally absorb myself into the gacha-filled and embarrassingly-named BanG Dream! Girls Band Party! for week-long stints at at time.
Recently, and somewhat surprisingly, many of these mobile rhythm games have been making the jump to console. Both Cytus and Voez are available on the Switch…and both were immediate purchases for me. After all, I’ll always prefer playing rhythm games in full surround sound (with the console docked of course) rather than through cheap earbuds connected to my phone.
The game we’re looking at today is something similar: a mobile-based franchise making the jump to a home system. However, it’s in a place most would not expect: PC via Steam.
Developed and published by Neowiz, Tapsonic Bold has recently left Early Access with its full version now available on Steam.
Flip to Six
For all intents and purposes, at its base, Tapsonic Bold is your standard lane-based rhythm game. A song plays in the background, notes come scrolling down lanes to a target, and you have to tap the notes as they cross said target.
Of course, most rhythm games need some kind of gimmick to stand out from the crowd. In the case of this title, that would be found in the shifting number of note lanes.
Alongside normal taps and holds, Tapsonic Bold includes two unique types of notes, one of which activates the game’s gimmick. By hitting a note that crosses two lanes at once, half of the lanes flip and change the number of lanes you have to play. Depending on song choice and difficulty, you can find yourself playing with anywhere from two to six lanes at a time.
While this system is good at keeping me on my toes, it also makes sightreading charts incredibly difficult. Notes will continue to appear past the “flip note,” and once the chart flips to a different number of lanes, the speed and layout of said notes can be completely different. As I usually focus my eyes on the top of the lanes rather than on the targets, these chart changes often throw me off and cause me to miss notes unless I’ve memorized the chart.
The other unique note style is a holdover from Tapsonic Bold‘s roots as a mobile game: slide notes. In the mobile games (at least from my experience with Tapsonic Top), these notes appear across multiple lanes and require you to slide your fingers across the lanes. Here in Bold they act as hold notes, forcing you to change which note you’re holding down as they jump lanes. Their inclusion here on this PC keyboard-based game feels superfluous, as stacking hold notes and tap notes already performs the same function these slide notes do.
Despite my issues with these unique notes, the note charts themselves are incredibly fun to play. The team behind this game is the same as the DJMax series, and their experience in charting music definitely shows here. The charts match their respective songs excellently, making it easy to get lost in the groove and bash out crazy note segments with surprising ease.
That ease, though, may be attributed to the fact that Tapsonic Bold‘s accuracy judgement is the most lax I’ve seen in a rhythm game. You really have to be actively trying to hit a note early or late to get anything other than a “perfect” rating, and I’d often find myself completing songs with an “S+” rank despite missing notes, just because my accuracy never strayed from 99%.
That’s not to say there’s no challenge here, though. I only just started working my way up to “Hard” difficulty during my time with the game, and still struggle a bit to complete some “Normal” charts well. I don’t often get a Game Over screen, but stumbling horrifically through the more difficult charts is punishment enough in my eyes.
In terms of presentation, much of Tapsonic Bold feels very basic yet functional. In essence, what you may expect from a layout originally intended for mobile. The menus are big and blocky, songs are lined up in a row obviously intended to be navigated by sliding your finger across, and in-game functions like pausing are adjusting track speed are shown in boxes on the screen despite being controlled with the keyboard.
That’s not to say that it’s a bad layout for this PC game though. While it’s obviously based on mobile, I had no issues with keyboard navigation here. If anything, various functions are easier to navigate to with a keyboard rather than a touchscreen. For example, you can reach up to the F1 and F2 keys to adjust the track speed on the fly here rather than having to take your fingers off the note chart to do so in the mobile version.
There are a few options to change the presentation of the notechart, but they are simply limited to note design and background. The customization here is underwhelming, but, to be fair, most people aren’t coming to play this game for flashy aesthetics.
The soundtrack, much like last year’s DJMax Respect, is very hit-or-miss with me. This isn’t surprising since this game is from the same team, developer, and publisher…and includes a number of DJMax songs in it. The setlist leans heavily on pop and electric, with a couple of slower jams in it for good measure. There weren’t really any standout tracks this time around, although I didn’t run across anything I would call straight-up “bad.”
Bold and Brash
All in all, Tapsonic Bold is an incredibly solid rhythm game that lacks a bit due to its mobile roots. Neowiz has done an excellent job porting over a game built for mobile and tuning it for PC, but there’s still a few kinks here and there that they missed ironing out.
The decision to carry over slide notes is kind of baffling, especially with their function often repeated in charts by simply stacking taps and holds next to each other. Having all of the games songs listed out in a single line makes navigating them a bit annoying, especially as there’s over 80 songs in this game. Having a more traditional list that I could sort through would’ve gone a long way.
Despite these issues, though, Tapsonic Bold is still a damn solid rhythm game, which we don’t see too often on PC. If you’re a fan of the DJMax series, or the Tapsonic mobile releases, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick this one up.
~ Final Score: 8/10 ~
Review copy provided by Neowiz for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer.