Santa Rockstar in Review – Heavy Metal Christmas Cheer

There’s something to be said about holiday themed games, and that’s by and large I don’t care for them.  When it comes to Christmas these days the games usually seem to revolve around delivering presents or destroying renegade elves, both of which might be good for one or two variants apiece.  Now don’t get me wrong – Santa Rockstar is still about saving Christmas, but at least the game format is one that hasn’t been touched so far in the holiday makeover realm.  Ironically enough I’m not really a big fan of Tap Tap Revenge style music games, but in this case the theme and choice of music seems to make all the difference in the world.

If you’ve never played this type of game before, basically you need to tap one of four buttons when a block of the corresponding color comes down that row.  The playing field is laid out like a guitar fretboard (don’t worry, I didn’t know that term either), so I guess it’s supposed to make you feel like you’re playing a guitar.  It doesn’t.  At any rate, the idea is that the blocks are moving with the beat, so if you have good rhythm you should do well.  Yep, as you might have guessed this game is all about timing, since the blocks have to be in a certain location before you tap the corresponding button.  Too early and you can at least try again, but if you tap too late it counts as a miss.  If you do that often enough you’ll lose the round and have to start over.

The game is divided into 5 locations with 3 levels each, and there are two additional locations that you can unlock either with IAP or if you do well in the game (the more challenging of the two requires you to get 5 stars on every single level playing at the hard difficulty setting).  Thankfully you earn money along the way that lets you buy new guitars and better sound equipment which in turn give you boosts to things like score and number of allowable mistakes before it affects your bonus multiplier.  The guitars are a permanent boost, while the other bonuses only last for either one or three levels, depending on how much you want to spend.  You can also unlock three bonus characters, which come at a rather steep price tag – in game coins, mind you.

Control is simply a matter of tapping.  Of course when you tap is the key to success, but the game is very responsive, so if you make a mistake it’s only because you just don’t have the timing right.  A lot of newer rhythm games try to introduce everything from swipes to holds to shaking the device into the mix, which can certainly add some variety, but once in a while the basic approach is just as entertaining.  As it is the game gets challenging enough when you get into the medium and hard difficulty levels and you have multiple rows to tap at the same time.  I actually haven’t tried hard yet, but I’m struggling as it is with the medium level.

The visuals are pretty stunning, which is kind of ironic since for the most part you won’t get to appreciate them as you’re concentrating on the task at hand.  Thankfully every once in a while there’s a lull in the action so you can appreciate Santa and his reindeer band travelling along in their decked out sleigh in 3D rendered goodness.  I’d love to see the characters in a game where they would act as more than a backdrop.  There isn’t much in the way of sound effects except for a grating noise that lets you know you missed a note.  The music… well, who doesn’t love a good Christmas riff?  Granted these particular mixes have a heavy metal slant to them, but it’s amazing how well Christmas songs adapt to that particular style of music.  I was just happy that I was familiar with most of the songs, because at least I stood a chance of staying with the beat.

In the end, Santa Rockstar managed to take two things I’m not fond of – Tap Tap Revenge style gameplay and Christmas themed games – and combine them into something I actually enjoy.  I’m not ecstatic over the game, but there’s certainly not much to gripe about.  It would be nice if there were more upgrades that weren’t one time boosts, but otherwise this is a simple, well rounded rhythm game that’s sure to put you in the Christmas spirit.

Grab It Rating - 4/5

App Summary
Title: Santa RockstarDeveloper: Clarin Global S.A.
Reviewed Ver:Min OS Req:4.3
Price:$0.99App Size:
  • Simple tap controls
  • Difficulty settings nicely balanced
  • Slick visuals
  • Excellent selection of music
  • Needs more persistent boosters

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