Sleepy Beats – Melatonin

Every once and a while I forget that I play certain games. I then stumbled across them later on when browsing for Overwatch 2 clips that I made. That is the case this week as I really forgot that I played Melatonin during the time that I had no internet. I don’t play many rhythm games, but after playing the demo I decided that I was going to go all in and experience a game that requires the player to imitate the song without any visual prompts from the game.

This week is Melatonin.

Melatonin is a rhythm game from Half Asleep. The game was released in December 2022 for the PC and retails for the low low price of $15.

It is a fucking rhythm game, did you expect a story? Well, there is nothing here but a developer explanation from the Steam page:

“Melatonin explores the relationship between the dreams we have when we’re asleep and the experiences we go through when we’re awake, through unique rhythm game levels. Hand-drawn in a colorful and detailed visual style, with music produced to flow hand-in-hand with the gameplay and visuals, you will piece together elements about the main character’s life as you dive deeper and deeper into their dreams at night.”

Melatonin is like every other rhythm game, but the one difference is the emphasis on rhythm. Each song has the option to practice the song before going into the full song. In the practice mode, Melatonin teaches the player the song along with the subtitle audio and visual cues. Usually, the arrow keys and space bar are the only keys being used in the game, so the game does not throw much at the player at first. After playing the practice mode it is time to enter the full version of the song and it is understood immediately that the game is about memorizing the rhythm and playing it back while the game hides the buttons that need to be pressed.

This emphasis on memorization of rhythm provides such a surreal enjoyment out of a video game. I found myself getting really pumped after completing a stage with a perfect after fully immersing myself within the music. Lightening strikes, phones vibrating, and swiping left or right when the photo makes a specific turn really gets the blood flowing when the little “perfect” text shows up. It really creates a scenario that both casual players and hardcore players can enjoy. After completing the regular full version of the song a “Hard Mode” is unlocked that really tests the player’s skill and attention to rhythm.

A bar on the left side fills up blue according to the number of notes hit, as it may be slow, late, or perfect. As the gauge fills, it will determine how many stars you receive at the end of the song. These stars are important because the amount to leave the current area is hinged on around eight stars.

It takes some time to get a hang of the mechanics of Melatonin. It is not easy memorizing button presses when the only thing guiding you is a visual cue and your own sense of rhythm.

The music is something really special too. It is soft enough to enjoy in a casual manner and the bass bumps in some songs that can really push the song to its limits. For example, “Shopping” and a cool, soft melody that sounds like you are in a mall, while “Technology” has a long bass that is just bumping while a synthesizer is going crazy at the forefront. Just about every song does such a good job of representing that specific song title. “Stress” is chaotic, while “Future” has an upbeat futuristic sound.

The pastel colors are just what a game like Melatonin needed to sell the chillness of this rhythm game. The colors are absolutely fantastic. Lots of light pink, purple, and blues cover the screen to keep it easy on the eyes. Each level keeps everything really aesthetically pleasing and calming.

Melatonin is a fantastic rhythm game. It is easy to say this because I am listening to the soundtrack right as I am typing this review. It blends calming, hand-drawn visuals with calming bass-bumping lo-fi music. The game, mechanically speaking, is very accessible to all players. My wife played a few songs and she really does not even play video games all that often and she was able to pick it up and get three stars on a few songs. The introduction of reliance on the rhythm and visual cues to make accurate button presses is intimidating only for a short time as it becomes secondhand by the second or third song. As I was entering the third and last ares I was a pro at reading the cues and timing button presses perfectly. I understand that in the regular mode, the game can be forgiving but it still requires the player to be at least familiar with the rhythm to advance to the next stage.

Melatonin does rhythm games right for me. I had a fucking blast playing the game. The music and visuals are good, the ease of play is incredible and the price is on point. Easily worth $15.

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