Deemo comes to the PlayStationVita! For those unfamiliar, Deemo is a rhythm game originally released for iOS/Android in 2013. It tells a story of a little girl who ends up crashing through a window into a mysterious lair. She meets Deemo, a demon who looks like Slender Man and Jack Skellington got together and made a baby. He may be a Demon, but he’s got a heart of gold. He quickly goes to work helping the child to return to her quest to get where she was going. Cue the gameplay.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely a veteran of the rhythm genre, so the gameplay will be intuitive. Much like many Bemani titles, notes scroll down the screen and you have to hit them with proper timing. As mentioned earlier, Deemo was made for mobile devices, so it makes great use of the Vita’s touchscreen. The key-sounded notes fly down the screen at varying speeds depending on the songs tempo. In this case you’re playing almost exclusively, the piano sections of songs. It feels somewhat like a mashup of Beatmania with DJMAX Technika.
The gameplay is pretty shallow. The notes all fly down the screen at random parts. There wasn’t any sort of visual flare added to the highway, as it puts a piece of art in the background and has notes, all a drab dark color, move over it. You tap the screen corresponding with where the note is. Given that it’s touch sensitive it’s pretty generous with the timing and location in order to improve accuracy. There is one rating based on your timing, if you hit in the window you will get a “charming”. If you miss the window you still keep your combo, but you don’t get the charming rating. There are speed mods included as well. This helps to separate the notes a bit more, but the uniform color still makes it difficult to read at times. There are three difficulties easy, normal and hard so just about anybody could pick up and play. Being quite familiar with the genre, I moved right to hard. I feel most familiar with the genre will.
One thing that immediately stood out to me was the music. The first few songs were melancholy piano ballads, evoking a feeling of darkness or isolation. The more you play, the more songs you unlock. This also ties together with the story line. As Deemo plays his piano, the oak tree that started the size of a shrub continues to grow, moving the child ever closer to her goal. It adds another layer of reward for your playing besides just striving for a new high score. As you unlock more music it becomes clear there is a wide range of genres to be heard. The music for the most part, is fantastic. There are a few songs that wouldn’t surprise me had they been made on fruity loops, but that is far from the majority, as most are great. Some are simply piano ballads, largely inspired by piano artist Yiruma, and the composer best known for Miyazaki films, Joe Hisashi. Some on the other hand are high energy J-pop, vocals and all. The range is very wide, which clashes a bit with the overall mood of the game, but it adds some much needed variety.
For those who have experienced Deemo on mobile and not on Vita, is it worth it? Afterall Deemo is $14.99 on Vita whereas on mobile it’s free. Outside of price, there are a few pros and cons for choosing the Vita version. First is that this will be the most complete experience of Deemo you can have. There are loads of DLC packs for the mobile version that are bundled with the game on the Vita version. There are also more DLC song packs to be had, but those will not be free. This version also comes with a few extra modes such as “after story mode” for when you finish the game, or “link play” for multiplayer via ad-hoc connection. The artwork and cut scenes have also had a nice revamp for the Vita version, which is nice given the art is one of the game’s strong suits. On the other hand the Vita may make for an awkward platform for the game given the size of the screen. As mentioned earlier, Deemo was made for mobile devices, which are far more compact and easier to navigate the touchscreen on than the Vita. Normally one of the great features of Vita, the screen may come as a detriment to those with smaller hands or fingers.
Overall I enjoyed my time with Deemo. The story is heartbreaking, the art is interesting, and the music is outstanding. Personally I’d recommend giving the game a shot on the phone, and if you find yourself hooked, invest. Don’t expect much new in the field of rhythm gaming from Deemo, but it’s fun and familiar, and a good little time waster. If nothing else, watch the cut scenes and enjoy the heartbreaking story.
* Review copy provided by the development team or publisher