Nothing’s better than getting all groovy when playing a rhythm game, tapping the buttons to a funky track without a miss, always aiming for perfect combo streaks.
Let me introduce you to Rhythm Doctor, which, at first glance, may look like a simple rhythm game where you only focus on the music beats without taking too much care of the story. But developer 7th Beat Games (Malaysia) begs to differ that they’re developing a combination of rhythm gameplay with narrative elements. Before this game was released on Steam, it has already existed since 2012 as a free flash game, but unfortunately, you won’t be able to access this version anymore due to Windows’ ended support of the flash player. After a brief hiatus of the development progress, 7th Beat Games finally continued developing and remaking the game engine to what it is now.
As the game’s main character, simply called “intern” doctor (you can’t change your character name), you will be guided by your senior doctors Dr. Paige and Dr. Ian. Your task is to help them treat the patients by applying this hospital’s very unusual treatment method: saving the patients by getting the rhythm right. Each patient has various heartbeat illnesses triggered by too much caffeine, tobacco, insomnia, etc., which are treated in 3 different locations, each with a distinct visual style and music set. Each area has a boss level too. To beat the levels, there’s only one button you need: the spacebar. Just press the spacebar on each 7th beat. The levels may look easy in the beginning. However, as you progress, you’ll find that each level will be increasingly difficult.
Rhythm Doctor has two modes, which are called the day and night shifts. The night shift is more challenging than the day shift, either because you need to micromanage the treatment of three to four patients simultaneously or because the beat gets trickier. To unlock the night shift mode, you have to ensure that you get the best score (A+) in each day level.
It may sound easy to tap the 7th beat when you listen to the music, but it’s easier said than done. The beats come in tricky because sometimes the music may deliver a sudden change of pace, whether it’s become slower or faster, making it easy to miss a tone and tap the spacebar too early or too late. You have to focus on listening to the music; seeing the visual clues won’t be enough to complete those levels.
The game’s music consists of dubstep, trap, lo-fi, chill music, drum ‘n’ bass, and even some jazzy pieces. Visually, the designers used pixelated graphics to illustrate the game. But don’t judge it just yet by its simple aesthetics. Once you start playing the music, each level features flashing colorful lights with magnificent moving background scenes. Furthermore, each level will teach you about the music’s complex rhythm theories in the tutorials. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand the theoretical concepts, though. You’ll be focusing on completing the levels. But props to the developers who have the will to put in a little extra background info.
The game was released in Early Access, and currently, there are 31 levels split into 4 acts (day shifts, night shifts, boss levels and bonus levels). However, if you want to make your own levels with individual music, there is a level editor available. In fact, the community has already made several levels available to download in the Steam Workshop.
I found an issue in-game, though. While playing the levels, I accidentally pressed alphabetical keys, and it seems you can play the game with it too. Technically, it is a bug that should be fixed, but as long it still exists, it can be a double-edged sword that if you press it accidentally, it could – at worst – make you miss a beat or – at best – give you an alternative to playing it with the spacebar only. It is just weird as the devs say that you can save the patients by tapping the spacebar only. Other than that, I had no issue finishing the game. As a bonus feature, the developers have implemented the option to customize your character’s arm sleeve, which allows for some creations ranging from stylish to silly.
Rhythm Doctor may still be in Early Access, but so far, it brings a certain amount of challenges when playing it, which tells that simplistic gameplay mechanics shouldn’t be taken lightly, just like in other rhythm games. According to 7th Beat Games, Rhythm Doctor will still stay in Early Access for at least one year… Based on their steam page, the plans for the full version include completing the entire story, additional levels, more boss levels, interactions, easter eggs, and tutorial for the editor tools.
I want to give special praise to the devs for creating the narrative storyline about doctors who tremendously take care of the patients with constant long day shifts. This reminds me of the world’s situation during the pandemic, in which without the medical personnel, we wouldn’t survive. Please stay safe, everyone and give medical workers a break. They are human, after all.
Rhythm Doctor is available for PC on Steam. This review is based on a free review copy provided by the developer.