I like music/rhythm games so I was excited to try quadrant by undef. This very small-scale, homebrew game is delightfully well made as far as core development is concerned but sadly it disappoints if you’re really into music games. Reviewing it was difficult because technically speaking it’s an excellent game that has very few overall flaws. But depending on how you categorize it, the game may or may not be just another sad attempt at an often misused genre. So with that being said please read on because, depending on where your interests lie, this might be an excellent game for you.
Graphically speaking, at base level quadrant is essentially a perfect music game. When I define a music game I believe the focus should be on the music. The simpler the graphics the better, because the goal of the game should be to make the player focus on the music. Flashing lights and crazy backgrounds may add to the development value of a game, but they take away from the music because the player ends up using his/her eyes more than their ears. Sadly that’s the way that most developers approach music games today and once you get past the initial gameplay quadrant becomes no different.
At first, quadrant is very nice. It’s bare bones visuals with easy to read block text. The game starts with a white background and three telescoping black square boxes. The simple HUD shows only your score, combo, and a metronome for timing. It is the way that a good music focused game should look. The two smaller squares slide around inside the larger square to tell you which of the four buttons to press supposedly based on the beat. It’s simple, elegant, challenging, and exactly what I was hoping for . . . for the first 12 beats. Then it starts to go to hell.
As you progress through the songs the animations start to change. This affects both the way the squares move and the background colors. At first it’s very subtle changes. The background starts changing colors at a mild pace, cycling between a number of blues and white. Once you hit the 50th note, the backgrounds keep changing colors and then the squares and HUD text starts changing colors as well. By this point colors are changing every 3 – 5 beats. Once you hit 70 beats it just starts to get crazy. The boxes start moving outside of the larger box, jumping and sliding sporadically over ridiculously colored zebra print backgrounds. It just becomes a big mess. Now from a development standpoint it’s great. The game runs super smoothly. The animations are very interesting and creative considering how simple the game really is. We’re talking about a game that makes use of only three squares and background colors for visuals. And as you progress to the other two levels, if you can, you will continue to be impressed by undef’s animations. But again they take away from the music experience that I expected going into this game.
The menus make use of the same block text and a number of different background colors. They’re perfect in every way and I would hate to see them changed. They keep the spirit of the game in an appropriate, easy to read, and well-organized manner.
The gameplay is easy to describe but hard to judge. Again this comes down to how you categorize the game. I judge it as a music game. But it’s extremely justifiable to judge it as something else. Take the game SIMON for example. That makes use of music tones and beats, but it’s not a music game. Quadrant is much the same idea. The difference being that quadrant sells itself as a rhythm game on its Steam page and website. The first thing I’ll say is that the game runs perfectly. You can play with a keyboard or a gamepad and you will experience perfect response times and absolutely no lag. Keyboard works much better because the gamepad’s diamond button placement makes it harder for your mind to correspond to a square set of button locations. Buttons are fully mappable. I suggest playing 4,5,1,2 on the number pad. Mechanically it is a good game. You goal is to hit one of four buttons corresponding to the corner/quadrant of the larger square that the smallest square is in. This sounds odd without looking at the pictures.
Essentially the largest square is broken up into four quadrants that the two smaller squares inhabit. The largest square doesn’t move at all, but it does disappear when you miss beats. HP is lost with each beat you miss and gained back with each one you hit up to full health. You are about to die when all you can see is the smallest square in a faded shade of whatever color it currently is. The two smaller squares move around the larger square together on beat and you have to press the button corresponding to their current quadrant once per a beat. The problem is the smaller square does not have to match the quadrant of the medium square. For example: the medium square can move to quadrant two from quadrant one of the big square, but the small square could move from quadrant one to quadrant four of the medium square. You would still hit the button for quadrant one because the small square is in quadrant one of the big square. This gets extremely confusing because your reflexes will try to match the small square because that’s what the directions say to watch, but really it’s only the medium square that matters. I would actually have liked to try a version of the game with just two squares to see how it compares.
The way the game scores you is kind of lazy and odd. You get graded on your score, highest combo, number of beats hit, precision, and number of animations seen. The problem is your score is your highest combo. If you play through an entire level and miss only one beat then your score will be the highest combo you got. So in the case of the first level which has 277 beats, your highest score can be 277. But depending on where you missed that one beat will define your score. Say you missed it at the beginning. You could still get a 276. But say you missed it in the middle. You now have to get a combo bigger than the one you had to raise your score. I’m not sure how it all factors but I can say that you have to get at least a rank C to progress to level two. I had to get all 277 beats to get a high enough rank. The game’s ranking system is way too unforgiving considering how challenging the gameplay really is. Most music games give you some grace. But I don’t know how precision and the other criteria are being factored in.
Your streak is not affected by precision. As long as you get the note you will continue to increase your score. The animations change as your score increases. If you miss a note the animation goes back to the starting one and you have to rebuild to the other ones. This is how animations are factored into your score. The bigger your streak the more animations you’ll see. Level one has a total of seven animations. The first time I completed it I only saw six of them according to the score card.
Precision isn’t great in this game. Depending on which sporadic animation you’re dealing with it can be almost impossible to be precise based on the timing of the metronome. It does happen some of the time, but there’s really no way to master it when the squares are jumping off the screen and spinning around in circles and such over crazy backgrounds. The game is very hard. You are given only a small amount of grace to get through the pretty long levels and even if you do get through them it’s very difficult to get the C rank you need to unlock the next level. I unlocked the second level in about 5 tries, but I have yet to unlock the final level. As a music game I find the gameplay preposterously troublesome, but as a puzzle type game I can appreciate what it is meant to be.
Something I really appreciated was that you could clear your data in sections. For instance you can clear just your stats without losing your progress. Or you could clear just your progress and so on. I’d like to see customizable data removal in more games.
The sound is good, but as is common with a lot of indie games it’s too low. The music is solid, but the volume is just too weak. The same can be said for the sound effects. They’re very appropriate and well done, but they have no force behind them. The game has no volume controls. It doesn’t need mixing options because it’s done perfectly but it just doesn’t kick out enough sound. I recommend using external speakers or a headset. It’s a music game so there’s no writing at all, but the text is nice.
As with all music games the replay value is intrinsic and ultimately up to the player. There are only three stages, but each stage has four achievements and it’s pretty hard to get past level two. Honestly the achievements are near impossible to do intentionally, but they are there. There is also a level editor but it’s an external thing that you have to go out of your way to do and then import into the game. I didn’t try it because it takes a lot of effort but there is a small community that you can get more levels from. I’d say the game is worth probably two to four hours depending on how long it takes you to unlock level three and whether or not you want to do the achievements. Warning: You will get frustrated playing this game. I think the price tag is fair, but it assumes you don’t rage quit before passing level two.
Personally I didn’t enjoy quadrant. I felt like it didn’t create the music focused experience that it seemed to be selling on its Steam page. But if you aren’t looking for a music game and you instead compare it to something like The Impossible Game I think it’s very good. A little bit too unforgiving as far as ranking since you have to achieve a certain rank to unlock the final level, but ultimately not a terrible game.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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