Keyed Heroics: Rhythm Zone

Rhythm is a funny word. Rhythm. The more I look at it, the less I like it. Which is quite the opposite effect that Rhythm Zone has on me. Initially I wasn’t all that taken with its apparently perfunctory rhythm-game presentation, but it’s actually not bad, and has some cleverness under the hood. My words about this game continue below.

Rhythm Zone takes the rhythm game thing that we are also so well acquainted with via plastic instruments and brings them to the keyboard. Of course the real issue for Rhythm Zone is that it is up against a bunch of other games which are also doing the Guitar Hero thing. They’re all over the place these days, and come in all sorts of flavours. There’s one right here, and an even better one here. Hell, there are even some that lived and then died again, like InstantJam, which went down with the demise of garage games.

I would have been unable to continue being interested in the game if Rhythm Zone hadn’t basically been the complete package, with a bunch of its own music, but, more importantly, a system for allowing you to add your own tracks to the game. This process does magic on the track and creates a level out of it, and will also allow you to select different difficulty levels to try. This is pretty neat, even if its browse functionality is a bit crappy and you need to store your music on your C: drive to find it. Just a few seconds wait (.wma and .mp3 files were what I converted) and I was playing levels based on the random nonsense that lurks on my computer, from Mozart to Lightning Bolt, and – the big surprise – the levels the game creates are actually pretty well mapped to the tune. The game lights up with psychedelic backgrounds and the tune-made-coloured sequences makes sense under your fingers. Like the best of the rhythm game genre, it’s impressive stuff.

Of course the processing of tunes is done elsewhere too, because there’s also Audiosurf. Not quite in the same game, but certainly close by in the neighbourhood, and what it does is both better looking and a little more PC-friendly than the classic rhythm game technique. Well anyway, the best way to judge is probably to play the demo, which is just here. Go take a look.


  1. Lipwig says:

    Only 4 buttons? Dumbed down.

    • Skyturnedred says:

      World needs bass players too!

    • SF Legend says:

      I think what you mean is “Only 4 buttons? Finally someone with a proper understanding of the number of fingers on a human hand!”

    • pakoito says:

      I usually play bass on this games and we still have to move one finger. Just try “Anyway you want it” on Hard and cry xD

    • Jim Helfer says:

      Mandolin Hero!

    • BAReFOOt says:

      WTH? How come nobody mentioned Frets on Fire yet?? Free, open source, Guitar Hero compatible, existing since the dawn of time, running on Windows, OS X and Linux, and there are bazillion of songs for it! They invented holding the keyboard like a guitar, for [What word do you usually use here in English?]’s sake! Here’s the link: link to

    • GHudston says:

      “World needs bass players too!”

      I’m stunned by how often I have to explain this to people… buttons in guitar based rhythm games represent FRETS not strings.

    • Maslaw says:

      There are 5-string basses, you know.

    • DarkNoghri says:


      Perhaps because it was linked in the main article?

    • HybridHalo says:

      The buttons don’t represent strings, at all, by the way. There is no physical controller way of playing a different string unless you look to the RockBand 3 Pro guitar. Which actually has strings.

      The buttons represent frets, the reason there are usually five is so that there can be some sense of moving your hand up and down a fret-board – a common sensation of playing a real guitar.

    • fearofshorts says:

      Hey, if you like Frets on Fire, you need to try Frets on Fire iX (FoFiX, as it’s called). While FoF was in development, people were working on mods and custom versions to add features and stability to the game. After a while, the original creators stopped updating. Since then, the custom version has changed development-hands time after time (???, Coffee mod, RFmod, Alarian mod, Alarian-MFH, MFH, Alarian) before finally landing with a team which had the time and resources to work on it.

      Out of this came the open-source FoFix. FoFiX is under active development (UNLIKE regular Frets on Fire) and features-
      Built-in support for real Guitar Hero and Rock Band controllers.
      Amazing theme support, allowing you to (after finding a good theme on the forums- not too difficult) play with GUIs which are better than even the best from Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises.
      Really impressive visuals.
      Support for multiplayer.
      Support for guitar solos and battles.
      Customizability (you can change how each note “feels”, making the game play more like GH, RB or the classic FoF).
      And a whole bunch of stuff I forgot.

      The creators of Frets on Fire basically wanted the community to take up the development of the game. That’s what FoFiX is.

  2. Coded_One says:

    “This video contains content from playcast, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.”

    Hmmm… The joys of international borders…

    • Terrormaster says:

      Yeah I got that international copyright warning thing too when I tried playing the video. Whats up with that crap!?

  3. phlebas says:

    Being able to use your own music library is great and all, but a big part of the reason Guitar Hero and similar games work is that the sound output is modified according to how you play – if you miss a note, play it late or play the wrong one you hear it, and that’s the main reason it feels as though you’re really playing. Until someone works out some really clever code for doing that dynamically to an existing track, the ‘official’ products hold the floor.

  4. Kakrafoon says:

    The problem with this game is (I played the demo a while back) that you only have to press the correct keyboard button(s) at the correct moment. You don’t have to hold down a colour button and then mash a bigger button in time with the rythm, like in Guitar Hero. That means you can basically play it with one hand, which makes it pretty boring.

  5. subedii says:

    Rhythm is also the longest word in the English language to contain no vowels.

    – Your scrabble guide fun fact for the day.

    • Lavatein says:


    • Lavatein says:

      You don’t have to put everything on C:, I can add songs from my external drive fine.

      I have trouble getting into this game though, possibly because I spent years on stepmania. The note generation is seriously wonky on about 80% of songs and expert mode is rubbish. The game is not good enough to generate charts with fast trills and streams so it just makes everything into doubles to compensate, which isn’t nearly as fun.

  6. Sweedums says:

    my main issue with this game is that it creates the level using all the music, and not just the guitar, so you are essentially playing all the instruments with 4 buttons which is kinda strange.

    however, i plugged in my mates usb guitar hero controller and it works fine with it, you just dont have to strum, but its still good fun because of being able to play songs i actually like for once…

    • John Peat says:

      Firstly it’s not magical – it can’t separate-out instruments from a piece of music because that’s technically impossible. GH/RB tracks are created by hand matching the ‘feel’ of the music as well as it’s technical measure.

      Secondly, anyone attempting to play this on a guitar controller is an idiot – it’s not designed to work it it, you may as well try to play it with a fishing rod or Balance Board ;)

      It’s not a bad game for what it tries to do – which is provide a technical rhythm-action challenge for the music you feed it – but it’s NOT GH/RB nor anything like them either.

  7. iLag says:

    Installed the demo, played for 6 minutes, uninstalled the demo, end of story. This made my fingers hurt like no other game before. And yes, I do own some of those games that Rhythm Zone tries to emulate. Hint: they’re doing it so much better.

  8. pakoito says:

    22 minutes in recognise a new song in my laptop…yeahhhhh

    • pakoito says:

      Oh! I have the new Daft Punk album that was leaked this week. It’s SO gonna go in :D

  9. Unaco says:

    Rhythm Has Your Two Hips Moving.

  10. Blue says:

    I just don’t the point of games like these since there already is a bunch of much better, free GH rip offs. Yes, this generates the chart automatically but what’s the point when it’ll be garbage anyway?

  11. ckpk says:

    Just go play stepmania

  12. Jimmy_Scythe says:

    No one is going to mention Synthesia? Seriously? You know, the game that was forced to change it’s name from “Piano Hero” by rabid EA lawyers…..

    Yeah, I know. No one wants to actually play an instrument.

  13. D says:

    I wonder if anyone’s ever heard of osu? It’s a PC rythmn game where you download “beatmaps” aka “levels” that are made by other people and play them out.

    link to

    • pakoito says:

      Osu! tatakae!! ouendan!!! / Elite Beat Agents ds-game clone, one of the best reworks I’ve seen but… I don’t find the game playable without a tablet or a tactile screen in your laptop. Jus’ sayin’

  14. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Decent enough game, I guess. Although every time I hear about one of these games I am reminded of the fact that Audiosurf (and just about every other one of these) isn’t available on MacOS.. which is extremely annoying.