Spin Rhythm

Viva la rev­o­lu­tion


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Su­per En­ter­tain­ment is re­ally lean­ing into the DJ fan­tasy. For one, we’re play­ing Spin Rhythm on real DJ equip­ment – our left hand thump­ing a Roland SPD One kick syn­the­siser, our right twirling a Ca­sio XW DJ1 wheel. For an­other, we’ve just some­how pulled off a move too flashy to be true, fol­low­ing up a wild spin of the wheel by stop­ping it ex­pertly on the cor­rect colour note to con­tinue the song. It’s a bril­liant bit of fak­ery, the game de­tect­ing our on-beat tap on the wheel and au­to­cor­rect­ing the land­ing. All we’ve done is hit a note in time, as in any other rhythm game – but it feels so thor­oughly cool.

Part of it may be be­cause Su­per En­ter­tain­ment co-di­rec­tors Stephen Last and Shath Maguire helped de­velop hit mo­bile game Fruit Ninja. While the im­me­di­ate com­par­i­son to draw is DJ Hero, Spin Rhythm has a much more ana­logue feel to its con­trols, with Fruit Ninja a key in­flu­ence. “You’re not just tap­ping, you’re swip­ing and slic­ing, and do­ing a lot of complicated move­ments,” Maguire says. He knew the same va­ri­ety of move­ment would per­fectly suit Spin Rhythm. “Be­cause there’s so much to do on a touch­screen, it al­most feels like you’re danc­ing with your hands. It’s so much more than tap­ping – it feels way bet­ter to go with the mu­sic, and ac­tu­ally move.”

If there was a slight stiff­ness to DJ Hero’s stunts, there’s none what­so­ever here. We pound the drum pad with our left hand, mov­ing the two-colour wheel back and forth with our right hand to tap and glide along notes. A flick of the wrist sends it into end­less ro­ta­tions, be­fore we tap it on the beat to con­tinue a streak. Whether we’re play­ing on a touch­screen, on PC with a mouse, or spin­ning ac­tual decks, Spin Rhythm nails the sen­sa­tion of flow with flair. “Fruit Ninja is a very juicy game, and these guys un­der­stand how to make some­thing feel great,” sound and mu­sic lead Dave Curro says.

It feels more like play­ing an in­stru­ment than other rhythm games, our mind split across two halves of the beat, each hand move­ment pre­cise. Nat­u­rally, it’s tricky. Dif­fi­culty lev­els are cur­rently split into Easy (right-hand wheel only), Nor­mal (left-hand drum only) and Hard (both to­gether). But we’re re­luc­tant to move down to lower dif­fi­cul­ties when we fail, be­cause play­ing Spin Rhythm with both hands feels so great when it’s go­ing smoothly. But the team is open to change. “Steve might have a heart at­tack if I men­tion this,” Maguire laughs, “but I’d love to have a dy­namic dif­fi­culty be­tween Easy and Nor­mal. So if you’re fail­ing a lot on Nor­mal, then it’ll bring you down dy­nam­i­cally.” In­deed, much of Spin Rhythm is a work in progress. The team is still fig­ur­ing out how to ap­proach scor­ing, for in­stance. But this has the mak­ings of a stel­lar rhythm game al­ready – per­haps be­cause, de­spite its ap­pear­ance, it was al­ways more about mak­ing a rhythm game than a DJ sim. It’s a lit­tle ironic, then, that Spin Rhythm ends up ful­fill­ing the fan­tasy so well. “It’s funny – the game­play of Spin Rhythm makes DJ Hero al­most look like a sim­u­la­tion,” Curro says. “There’s scratch­ing and cross­fad­ing and stuff, and we haven’t re­ally gone for that. It’s more of a crys­tallised idea with the mo­tions.”

As we spin the wheel into the drop and thrill for the umpteenth time, we won­der what it is about per­form­ing these ab­stract move­ments, and the DJ fan­tasy that is so mag­netic. “Elec­tronic mu­sic is like magic: not many peo­ple re­ally know what goes into mak­ing it,” Curro says. “Some peo­ple are like, ‘Oh it’s easy, it’s not real mu­sic.’ But then you see peo­ple on stage some­how cre­at­ing these sounds and mix­ing stuff to­gether and cre­at­ing these amaz­ing par­ties – like, how can you not want to be a part of that mys­tery?”

“Elec­tronic mu­sic is like magic: not many peo­ple re­ally know what goes into mak­ing it”

From top: De­vel­oper Dave Curro, co-di­rec­tors Shath Maguire and Stephen Last

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