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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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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