Gamereactor uses cookies to ensure that we give you the best browsing experience on our website. If you continue, we'll assume that you are happy with our cookies policy

A Musical Story

A Musical Story

This emotional rhythm adventure tells the story of a young man whose life is flashing before his eyes.

Subscribe to our newsletter here!

* Required field

For a time, rhythm games were all the rage. Guitar Hero and Rock Band were absolutely crushing it, with gamers all around the world shredding to iconic songs on their plastic peripherals. But alas, that was a long-time ago, and now rhythm-based games are far less common, and physical accompanying peripherals even less so. Needless to say, the sub-genre has had to adapt, and that has since seen the launch of Fuser and even more recently, an indie title set against a 70s backdrop by developer Glee-Cheese Studio. A short rhythm adventure aptly called A Musical Story.

A Musical Story

The story revolves around the memories of a young man called Gabriel, who is literally experiencing his life flashing before his very eyes. At the beginning of the game, in the opening menu for that matter, Gabriel is portrayed in a hospital bed, unconscious and clearly fighting for his life. The reason as to why he is in this situation is unclear, but you soon learn as you start the game that the story will unravel and lead to the moment that fast-tracked Gabriel to a hospital ward. I won't dive into the intricacies of the narrative as A Musical Story is only a short game (around two hours long) with its storyline being one of its most important aspects. But, what I will say is that while it can be difficult to follow at times, due to the lack of any dialogue, what is presented is an emotionally-complex tale that encroaches and explores key moments in Gabriel's life, including working at a cannery as a child and falling in love for the first time.

As for how the narrative is conveyed, this is a little untraditional, as the story is split into 24 chapters that are each defined by a key image or memory that you have to construct by building musical tracks by correctly hitting the left and right arrow keys (on PC) at the right time, all to beat. In a way it's similar to other rhythm games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band, as you need to hit key after key exactly as it asks, but it's also very different as there's no scoring system, no ridiculously complicated riffs, and there are only two inputs you need to worry about. And this is the case because this isn't meant to be a challenging video game per se, but rather a new way to convey a story in an engaging and unique manner.

In terms of how a memory is constructed, or rather remembered, each new chapter asks you to create a rhythm by hitting each input on time. Assuming you do, this rhythm will be moved into the background and played on repeat at a quieter tone while you tackle another rhythm to fit on top of that one. Essentially, what A Musical Story asks you to do is create various small songs that are, in Gabriel's mind, a reflection of a key memory or moment in his life. The songs themselves are part of an original soundtrack that resembles the 70s and is very soulful and often features synth influences, despite the fact that synth really burst onto the scene in the 80s. While some tracks are quite calming, lo-fi and relaxing, a lot of the songs are tailored to darker moments in Gabriel's life and are, if anything a little bit haunting and unsettling, particularly so during the recollection of a bad drug-induced trip.

This is an ad:
A Musical StoryA Musical Story
A Musical StoryA Musical Story

The gameplay is hardly exceptional but it's also not a weak point. My biggest criticism is that it feels like the developer, Glee-Cheese Studio didn't take enough risks with what it was aiming to deliver, as every chapter uses the same circular track system that is only really ever spiced up with different colours for the respective left and right keys. If you never get to the final chapter, this never really screams out to be an issue, but without spoiling anything, the final chapter proves that there are unique and different ways to create a track system, one that if explored more frequently throughout the rest of the game, would simply better A Musical Story at every turn.

And this extends to the way that the art (the memories) are displayed, as by being more creative with the track system would allow the developer to better emphasise and highlight the truly gorgeous visuals and animated scenes that are used to showcase these key moments in Gabriel's life. It all just feels like a bit of a missed opportunity to really explore and serve up a truly unique and unusual storytelling premise.

This is an ad:
A Musical StoryA Musical Story

Even though I do share some gripes about A Musical Story, I don't think this is a bad game at all. If you're searching for a new video game to fill an evening, one that will stick with you thanks to its emotional narrative, then this is a prime candidate. It's relaxing, easy to pick up and play, unique, and can be completed in a couple of hours, or double that if you intend to perfect every chapter without making a mistake to unlock the final, secret, hidden chapter.

06 Gamereactor UK
6 / 10
Soundtrack is fantastic. Visuals and art style are brilliant. Relaxing and easy to play.
Gameplay could be a little more exciting. Narrative can be difficult to follow due to dialogue-less design.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

Related texts

A Musical StoryScore

A Musical Story

REVIEW. Written by Ben Lyons

This emotional rhythm adventure tells the story of a young man whose life is flashing before his eyes.

Loading next content