Fret Nice

The power of rock has blinded you to inherent failings.

Fret Nice endeavors to repurpose your guitar peripherals to a task outside the rhythm niche. Not all endeavors succeed. Some fail miserably, and Fret Nice is among that less illustrious set. It’s simple, you won’t want to play this game as the developer intended.

A musical platformer with not even a hint of rhythm roots Fret Nice uses the guitar to fill the function of a conventional controller. Which it isn’t, and apparently shouldn’t be. It’s like taking a wrench – or in this case, an axe – and hammering in nails. Sure you can get the job done, but why would you want to when you’ve got that perfectly good hammer over there?

Your first and third fret control running left and right, respectively. Jumping, however, calls for tilting the controller. Instead of unleashing Star Power you’re jumping, or trying to, every time you need to ascend or attack. This doesn’t just get old, it gets ouchy. I’m talking about the hazards of neck chafing. If you had to jump, say, twice a level, and those jumps did not require precision, this might work. However, in addition to standard obstacle scaling jumps you need to be airborne in order to rock, which is your attack (making all those speaker dives seem a lot less showy and infinitely more practical). It seems the team knew this idea was bust as you can swap to use the second and fourth frets for “jump” and “action”. Bear in mind that you’re already using first and third to move left and right, and well, I’m sure you can imagine the fun to be had in moving into an enemy instead of attacking.

At this point you should retire the guitar, apologize for any misdeeds in its name, and fire up your standard controller. You’ll be relieved to discover that Fret Nice is a fun game, full of amusing story, collectibles and platforming fun. Consider yourself warned: you do not pounce to defeat your foes, instead you become attached to them by an ethereal string which allows you to take them down by strumming notes that match the enemy’s appearance. If the floaty black blob has six eyes, strum the green fret six times. Does the nasty have an eye and a horn, two frets and strum. Discovering the solutions isn’t obvious at first, a problem I solved through vigorous button experimentation.

With a conventional controller, the attack does require greater finesse. Triangle triggers the attack with each subsequent button press targeting a different part of the enemy. You are not rewarded for thoroughness: attacking more parts than the enemy has results in a loss of bonus points. That’s pretty much the coolest part of the Fret Nice gameplay, otherwise you will find yourself frustrated by slow movement and the tedium of repetition. With controller in hand you should have no difficulty soaring through the levels, but finding all the goodies is a different matter. Within each stage are eight possible medals that you can snag for speed runs, destroying all opposition, and ferreting out enemies and newspaper clippings. Medals unlock new levels, even secret levels, as well as get you new outfits and guitars. You will have to revisit levels to pick up all the medals required to unlock later stages, introducing the repetition hazard.

The game’s aesthetic is a bit of an assault on the eyes at first, as clunky as the control scheme, with a style reminiscent of LocoRoco. Clunky quickly becomes a fonder chunky, with cute characters and platforming fueled by a critical dose of collecting. The look and sound of the game are its highlights. A really great soundtrack paired with an end-of-stage ascent in a helicopter? That’s rock and roll.

If your dream is to platform with your guitar peripheral, Fret Nice is everything naughty. Stripped of its own gimmick, it’s just a quirky downloadable platformer with gameplay tailored to an idea that doesn’t work. Rock at your own risk.

Review copy provided by publisher.