Review: VOEZ (Switch)

The Nintendo Switch’s game library may still be considered narrow, but Flyhigh Works/Circle Entertainment jumped in early to provide the format with its first rhythm-based title. VOEZ oddly strays from the Switch’s mantra of flexibility in how you play the game, but it nails down the music and gameplay that fans of the genre seek.

VOEZ originated as a mobile title by Rayark that wasn’t quite one year old at the Switch’s launch. The title can only be played in the Switch’s tablet mode, which is unique for the system, but given its development was for smart devices, this is clearly the ideal way to play.

At face value, VOEZ is similar to rhythm titles such as Beatmania or DJ MAX, in which notes fall from the top of the screen and the player is tasked with pressing the correct key as the markers match a timing field at the bottom. Taking advantage of the touch screen, VOEZ has players tapping, holding and sliding notes based as different styles of notes are introduced.

The Switch touchscreen is certainly an upgrade from the Wii U Gamepad, and even on the higher difficulties, my tablet accurately kept up with the action. However, I had to prop the tablet up for the higher difficulties to play the game “piano style,” so those interested in VOEZ as a portable title may not find the format suitable for every travel situation.

The way VOEZ strays from the path is in its dynamic play fields – the note lanes fade in, shuffle and change colors in time with the music as a sort of sequencer. This not only gives the title a lot of appeal in its visuals, but also keeps the player on their toes. Most of these shuffles are done in a way that still allows plenty of reaction time, so it should limit the annoyance of players who prefer static playfields for sight reading purposes.

Instead of opting for music videos or animated characters, the constantly-changing playfield is the key focus of the game’s visuals. The sequencing and music combine for a solid presentation punch while not being overly distracting from the gameplay. Outside of the songs, VOEZ features general navigation without much flair, but the menus are clean and generally easy to the navigate.

The rhythm game meat of VOEZ is its selection of music that could be described as a mix of what would be generally found in games such as DJ Max with a few touches of Vocaloid. VOEZ for the Switch opts to be a fully-featured title, so the $20 asking prices puts a full lineup of songs into the player’s lap instead of trying to sell the music in pieces. There are a variety of genres and tempos to play with, and each song features three difficulty levels.

Being tied to its mobile nature, one of the minor setbacks in VOEZ’s audio stems from the tablet-only playability of the game, and it’s fairly pointed out by a prompt in the game: In most environments, to get the fully quality out of the songs, the player should use headphones or earbuds. I still got suitable quality out of the speakers in the quiet of my home, but those in environments that won’t let them crank the volume up will want to take the suggestion.

Those who can get into the music will a lot to love in VOEZ, and its variety of difficulty levels will keep them coming back. There are a series of extras in the game that grant selectable avatars and access to a storyline involving characters coming together through their musical talents.

For those seeking challenge from music titles, VOEZ does task you with playing easier difficulties to progress through missions. Since elements such as extra songs do not seem to be tied to the unlockables, such bells and whistles will be a take-it-or-leave-it affair based on the player. Still, there is some substance in the well-done art, and the story is passable, especially considering it is tied to a music-based game.

Challenge and score seekers will more likely be interested in the player stats that record overall game score and the number of songs cleared, full comboed and perfect full comboed. VOEZ on Switch axes the always-online requirement of the mobile versions, but there doesn’t appear to be online leaderboards. Still, the Switch’s easy-to-use screenshot system can be a workaround for those who want to share accomplishments on social media.

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