This latest rhythm game from Taito combines a wireframe aesthetic that recalls Rez mixed with Vib Ribbon, with you guiding an avatar down a predetermined path and tapping the screen when you pass certain beats.
Groove Coaster's 80s inspired wireframes, which mesh with bright colours and whizzy camera angles, definitely make for a good looking mobile game. The aesthetic is especially pleasing on an iPad 2, and the game is provided as a Universal Binary so it will work across all your iDevices.
The music selection is certainly eclectic, too, with 15 tracks provided alongside the base game including a playable credits sequence that changes the more of your Game Center friends have the game. Most of the music is either electronic, hip hop or J-Pop, with a handful of tracks thrown in from Space Invaders Extreme and Arkanoid DS.
Your standard input just requires you to tap anywhere on the screen. Later tracks and harder difficulties - each track has easy, medium, and hard options - add further types of beat to mix up the rhythm of play, including held notes, scratches, directional swipes, and tapping. These gestures can occasionally feel a little messy, and on some of the more hectic stages it feels like the occasional note can be missed, but unless you're really gunning for a high score run (though this is the kind of game where you might be) it doesn't really harm the experience.
Finishing stages boosts your rank, which awards new avatars and skins. Avatars confer additional bonuses, such as easing up on the timing for notes, whereas skins add a touch of visual flourish.
What becomes more problematic is when the line twists in a way that makes guessing upcoming beats difficult, and as missing a beat disrupts the flow of the music it can take just a few seconds too long to reacclimatise yourself to the track. This can be remedied by repeat play, but it's still frustrating to see your score multiplier evaporate because the line unexpectedly decided to loop-de-loop.
For the most part, though, the simplicity of the game is perfectly suited for quick bursts of play on the input-challenged iDevice. Most tracks in the game are just a couple of minutes long, meaning you can easily play a level or two between checking your e-mails, Twitter, and restocking your Tiny Tower.
Elsewhere there's a selection of in-app purchases including extra tracks, new avatar skins, and stacks of ten limited-use items, each currently selling for 69p. The items and avatars are slightly nebulous, offering a noticeable in-game advantage but the extra tracks seem like an acceptable addition. The highlight is easily a Space Invaders Infinity Gene medley.
Groove Coaster isn't as ambitious a project as Space Invaders Infinity Gene, but it's certainly more fun while it lasts. Whether it's flying along at juddering right angles, or gently cruising around a relaxing curve, Groove Coaster is a consistently enjoyable audiovisual experience.