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iPhone hit “Groove Coaster” gives a new perspective to rhythm game design

iPhone hit “Groove Coaster” gives a new perspective to rhythm game design (photo)

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As a category, music games are in a weird place right now. The glory days of the first “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band 2”-and the plastic instruments they ushered into homes worldwide-are long gone. Activision shuttered the division that made “Guitar Hero” and MTV unceremoniously sold off Harmonix, the developer who created “Rock Band.” The Boston-based developer’s still thriving with “Dance Central,” but that game’s a far sight from the performance karaoke that let you stand in for the most famous rockers of all time.

But, the rhythm game genre may have life in it yet and the best proof of that is Taito’s new iOS release “Groove Coaster.” If you’ve played practically any music game since the inception of the genre, you’ll pick up on “Groove Coaster” right away. As the 17 J-pop tracks that come with the game play, symbols speed down a line running across the screen. Tapping anywhere on the screen in time with symbols will sync up parts of the song and bring them up in the audio mix.

What sets the title apart is its use of shifting camera angles to make the player constantly have to re-orient themselves. The name “Groove Coaster” riffs on “roller coaster” and the game does make you feel as if you’re in the front seat of the front car of a loop-de-loop extravanganza. Tracks will spiral in on themselves, zig-zag jerkily and make you feverishly tap at the screen during certain moments. The title’s head developer Reisuke Ishida last worked on “Space Invaders: Infinity Gene,” an iPhone game that similarly reworked the experience of the arcade classic with new ideas.

“Groove Coaster” channels the sensation of listening to new music. The not-knowing where a track’s going to go next, the latching-on to a part of a song you know you’re going to love, they’re both in “Groove Coaster.” It’s impressive that the game’s able to codify those perceptual and physical reaction of pop-music endorphin release into gameplay. That buzzy energy gets helped along by great visuals drawn out in neion-colored vector graphics that heavily recall “Rez.” You can totally feel the synaesthetic hallmarks of Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s masterpiece in “Groove Coaster,” with how tightly allied the graphical shifts are to the musical changes. But the iDevice title does enough make itself feel like its own unique experience and not a knock-off of anything that’s come before.

The signature moment of “Groove Coaster” comes at the end of a level, when the camera pull back to a wide shot that reveals the twists and turns you traveled along while tapping through a particular song. It’s almost like the photos you can buy of yourself after an amusement park ride, where you look back in wonder at what you experienced.

If you’ve played “Groove Coaster,” what do you think of it? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.