Spin Rhythm XD is a rhythm game that makes me want to buy a musical instrument

There’s a nice little twist in Spin Rhythm XD. Occasionally, you’ll be asked to spin the game’s on-screen controller wildly – a two-tone disc responsible for playing almost every note in the game. It’s a moment of exuberant action in the midst of a game focused on perfection on a small scale, the same feeling you get from Rock Band drum fills. But what I particularly like is that when you stop that rotation and get ready to continue playing your chosen electronic cut, the game always leaves the disc in the perfect position to play the next note. It’s a masterpiece of miniature design, a way to make the game fair and keep you perfectly in the flow (not to mention feeling incredibly good in a game that gets pretty punishing pretty quickly).

That says a lot about what makes Spin Rhythm – the debut release from Australian indie Super Spin Digital – so exciting. Even in early access form, it’s a high-precision, minimal distraction game designed to make you feel absolutely connected to the track you’re playing. Where other music-based games may look a bit like plastic karaoke, this is more like directed composition, albeit by means of a UFO-like instrument.

Check out what Spin Rhythm looks (and sounds like) in the Early Access trailer:

The controls are simple, mainly because the songs you’ll play with them very often aren’t. Most notes are red or blue dots, only asking you to line up the corresponding color on the record when they meet you on the track. Some notes require you to press a button at the same time as color alignment. Longer notes allow you to hold this button and draw wavy lines across the track. And then there are those nice spins, where you drag your mouse or flick a controller stick to send the disc spinning.

Like all truly excellent rhythm games, increasing a difficulty level not only increases complexity, but adds a whole new type of note in the form of the rhythm bar (played with the space bar on a keyboard, the shoulder button on a controller). Much like Guitar Hero’s orange note, dropping it into a now-familiar mix of inputs will completely throw you off at first and force you to make it second nature all over again.

It’s a control set designed to be easily digestible, but almost never easy in practice. You’ll realize, very quickly, that Spin Rhythm demands you take care of it almost immediately, its songs – almost all upbeat EDM cuts – transforming the note track into a maze of blue and red symbols, something like a vertical sheet music weird. In its PC form, this is all achievable with mouse and keyboard (best for minor precision and quick position changes) or a controller (best for rotations and taps), but its best method of control is something less familiar.

Where the most famous pure rhythm games have required players to invest in bulky peripherals that eventually become useless to anyone other than Dark Souls masochists, Spin Rhythm takes the opposite approach – its perfect controller is a existing digital, a MIDI DJ mixer. Laps are handled by the turntables, with configurable buttons to enable notes and rhythms.

I haven’t played on a mixer yet, but I desperately want to – I bet the towers are amazing, for starters – and I’ve already gone so far as to look at how much they cost. That’s how much I love these tricks. This is perhaps the best marker of the quality of Spin Rhythm already in its initial form – I love this game so much that it could convince me to familiarize myself with a completely new musical device. This is probably the sign of a good rhythm game.

Spin Rhythm XD is now in Early Access on Steam and will be coming to Switch in 2020.

Joe Skrebels is IGN’s Deputy UK Editor, and his favorite song on the Spin Rhythm tracklist is “2 Minutes” by Kitty. Follow him on Twitter.


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