Looking for a rhythm game that reminds you of Guitar Hero while somehow making you feel like a sophisticated pianist? Look no further than DEEMO, from developer Rayark and publisher Flyhigh Works! Before we begin our review, you should know that you can only play DEEMO in handheld mode right now—but a planned free update that lets you play with a controller should be rolling out in the somewhat near future, and you can read more about it in this tweet!
In DEEMO, you’ll tap falling musical notes on the touch screen when they reach a designated line. As long as you tap them when they’re pretty close to that line, you’ll succeed in hitting those notes—and if you tap them when they’re right on the line, you’ll get a Charming Note bonus! Your goal is to catch as many notes as you can, and depending on how well you do, you’ll unlock new songbooks, which contain clusters of playable songs.
This might sound a lot like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, but if you think DEEMO is a ripoff of these classic rhythm games, you’re dead wrong.
For one thing, those old rhythm games always featured popular music, and most players already knew the songs quite well before they played the games. And while we know it can be fun to play along with songs you’ve known for years, it’s really fun to play along with songs you’ve never heard before, songs that are brilliantly composed and will likely get stuck in your head (in a good way). It’s also an extra challenge to learn those unfamiliar songs, so we think players who like a challenge will love DEEMO.
Of course, DEEMO also sets itself apart from rock-based rhythm games because it’s piano-based and (for now) only playable on a touch screen, but there’s another major factor that puts DEEMO in a league of its own: its story. As you might recall, Guitar Hero and Rock band really don’t feature much of a story, but DEEMO does.
You see, DEEMO is a mysterious being who lives alone in a whimsical castle and plays piano. But one day, he catches a young girl who falls through his ceiling. He befriends the girl, who has no memory, and decides to help her get back up through his ceiling. His plan? Plant a tree and enhance its growth by playing piano. In this way, each song you play along with in DEEMO serves a purpose: it helps the tree grow, which brings the girl closer to her true “home”—wherever that might be.
This story might sound a little strange on paper, but it’s quite charming inside the game, and it’s certainly enhanced through the game’s gorgeous Japanese art style. And DEEMO’s graphics not only illustrate the game’s story; they also beautifully illustrate the game’s wide variety of songs. DEEMO’s range of music is remarkably vast, and no matter what your musical taste may be, we think you’ll find something you love in the game’s songbook.
Overall, we’re in love with DEEMO: its presentation is fantastic, its mechanics are spot-on, and it offers tons of content. You can adjust the speed of every song, which helps you fine-tune gameplay to your liking, and you can even set the difficulty for each song! (Your difficulty options are easy, normal, and hard.) If you like what you’ve seen in this review, we think you’ll love DEEMO, and you can pick it up here for just $29.99!
PS: We found that the best way to enjoy DEEMO is to sit on the couch, place a pillow in our laps, and set the touch screen on the pillow—but if this doesn’t sound appealing to you, we suggest that you check out this stand for your touch screen. It functions similarly to a stand for sheet music, and we think it would be perfect for playing this game.
Nick and Sarah are the ultimate gaming couple. Nick is a Super Mario Maker 2 enthusiast, but working with Nintendeal has fostered a love for tough-as-nails indies such as Enter the Gungeon, Celeste, and Cuphead. Sarah prefers sim games like Animal Crossing, Don’t Starve, and Stardew Valley, but she challenges herself by grinding Slay the Spire from time to time.