Melatonin. The name of the sleep-associated hormone produced under cover of darkness. But also the name of an upcoming rhythm game from indie studio, Half Asleep, in which you explore your dreams.
I recently had the pleasure of playing through the demo for this title, which comes out in September. And I must say I loved every minute of it. We’re all in for a treat when it drops.
Keep the Beat
As a rhythm game, Melatonin’s gameplay mostly revolves around timing key inputs. It may sound simple on paper, but it does present a reasonable challenge at times. Especially the first time you play a level. In this game, visual clues and sound cues keep you on the beat and give you the signal to hit a key. For the most part, it works smoothly, but as a newcomer to the rhythm game genre, I did struggle to recognise my cues at first.
This is where the ability to train really came in handy. It gives you the chance to have a low-stakes, no-pressure run at the level. Training also provided visual and audio assistance. Visual assistance displays the upcoming beats and inputs, and audio assistance includes a metronome to help your timing. These accessibility options can also be used in regular modes with no consequences, which many people will appreciate, I’m sure.
All in all, gameplay was a heap of fun. I personally couldn’t find much fault in it. After overcoming my initial inability to stay on beat, things really picked up, and I saw the light so to speak.
Each stage has a hard mode which increases both the tempo and number of inputs. The full release will even include the ability to script your own levels using an editor. Although, I’m not sure exactly how much creative freedom players will have. Either way, all of this just means that more good times are ahead of us.
My Ears Thank You
The gameplay is solid, but the real star and possibly the most important aspect of the entire thing is the music. Now If you’d permit the phrase, Melatonin’s music slaps. Every track I heard from the moment I landed on the title screen to the end of the demo’s first night, was a certified banger. Music taste may be subjective, but I’d be willing to bet you’ll be grooving in your seat before long. You may not even realise it until you’ve finished a stage.
The producers and sound engineers really did a great job of eliciting a feeling of lighthearted joy. The soundtracks of each stage also made a much-appreciated effort to incorporate the sound effects you create into the tracks themselves. For example, when you dream of food, snacks are shot into your mouth at high speeds, with every input you chow down. This sound effect is not only input confirmation, but part of the music itself.
My Eyes Thank You Too
I really loved Melatonin’s design and style. Every aspect was executed wonderfully. From the music (which would have been a bummer otherwise) down to the hand-drawn art. Half Asleep has created a beautiful world filled with pastel colours and detail that really nails the feeling of a pleasant dream.
The dream world is an absolutely perfect setting for this rhythm game. The surreal landscape is just rife with possibilities for imaginative animation and design. However, it didn’t always hit it out of the park in this demo. The four stages I had access to had a few moments of dreamscape absurdity, at times things kept one foot flat on the plane of realism. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. The mix of dreams and the waking world kept things from completely flying off the handle and more in line with people’s actual dreams. Or at least my own dreams.
However, most stages delivered on creativity. And by the looks of things, the full release is going to have a lot more fantastical and inventive stages, which I personally can’t wait for.
Melatonin arrives on PC and the Nintendo Switch on September 16, 2022. A playable demo should also be available to download and play on Steam from June 13, 2022.