Rhythm games may not be as popular as they once were, with series like Guitar Hero and Rock Band falling out of favour, but indie game developers have kept the rhythm alive with a steady stream of creative new take on the genre. One of the more interesting indie rhythm games of the year, coming in just a few days before the calendar flips to 2023, is Melatonin from Vancouver developer David Huynh.
Melatonin is divided into a series of phases, each of which represents something the game’s main character dreams of as he falls asleep on the couch. Taking its cue from Nintendo’s Rhythm Heaven games, Melatonin largely ditches the cluttered user interface and intimidating barrage of notes that often come with rhythm games, opting to guide players through audio cues and other, more subtle ways. It all sounds rather promising, but will it really get your toes clicking? I recently had a chance to chat with David Huynh about how his game balances accessibility with challenge, how the level editor works, whether the game might actually help you wind down before bed, and more. Scroll for the full conversation…
I said that a goal with melatonin was to create a less challenging type of rhythm game for those who might otherwise be intimidated by the barrage of notes in Guitar Hero or other similar titles (I’m in that boat sometimes). What are some ways, big and small, that have made the genre more accessible?
The most obvious one is that melatonin relies more on sound cues than most rhythm games. You can actually play each level without even looking at the screen. I think it naturally makes you focus more on the music which will help you improve no matter what rhythm game you’re playing. There are even parts of the game that encourage you to stop focusing on the visuals and just pay attention to the audio. There is a more traditional visual interface though if you need some extra help.
The game feels like Nintendo’s Rhythm Heaven series, which is one of the few games in this genre that really clicked with me. Was this an effect?
yes! I also love the Rhythm Heaven series and it definitely had a noticeable impact on the game. I was blown away when I first played it because it felt so unique. There are a lot of other mediums out there that inspired me as well and I think I’ve managed to make something with a very different personality than Rhythm Heaven. This difference is also easy to notice once you hear the music or see the art style.
But hey, what if you We are Rhythm master? Will the game still appeal to you?
I think melatonin is still a very challenging game that would surprise even the most experienced rhythm game players. Each level has more difficulty and the game also allows you to see how many times you got a “perfect” score in a level. That would be difficult even for masters of this genre.
The game takes place in the dreams of the main character. Will we see some kind of story? Or will we at least learn more about the main character?
There is no traditional storytelling in the game like dialogue or narration but each chapter follows a part of a character’s life that you can piece together into a narrative. It mostly happens in dreams because I believe dreams can be an insightful reflection of what’s going on in someone’s life.
How many total stages are there?
There are 21 recorded levels in the game.
You mentioned that there is a level editor. How diverse is that?
It’s a simple level editor that mostly lets you remap where the windows are. You can also control the tempo changes in the levels it supports and trigger some curve balls that are thrown in each level.
interesting. I don’t know I’ve ever played a rhythm game with this kind of customization…
I’d like to continue working on this feature when enough player feedback comes in, but I still think it’s a fun tool to play with in its current state.
Given the topic and title of melatonin, has any thought been given to creating something that might help gamers relax? Is this game something you can relax with before bed?
I’ve actually designed each class with a different mood in mind, so there’s a lot more variety than just relaxing. For example, Act Two uses up-tempo songs and is meant to feel very soulful. There are a lot of relaxing moments throughout the game, so you will be able to relax if you play the right levels.
Melatonin launches on PC this month, but the trailers also feature the Switch logo. When will that come?
almost! That’s all I can say for now.
Are there any plans for special Switch features? Maybe touch screen controls?
It’ll just be the base game but the nice thing about the Switch version is that you won’t have to worry as much about latency because this version is already calibrated for those devices as long as you’re not using any Bluetooth headsets.
Are any other versions other than PC and Switch being considered?
It is definitely being considered but nothing to announce yet!
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!
Melatonin launches on PC tomorrow (December 15th). As mentioned, the Switch version is coming soon.