Rhythm games lose something when they don’t come bundled with a peripheral, I think. There’s something about a physical controller, custom built to emulate the action the game revolves around, that lends games a level of credibility you lose the second you try and play it with a regular pad. Playing Guitar Hero with an Xbox 360 controller feels like trying to paint a bedroom wall using a spoon. You’ll get there eventually, but if anyone spots you through a window they’ll rightly assume you’re some kind of deviant.
Enter Spin Rhythm XD, a rhythm game built around making a controller (or a mouse and keyboard, if you so prefer) feel like an instrument. In the centre of the screen is a lane, where various icons travel down in time to the beat of a selected track. At the bottom lies a segmented wheel. Twisting the analogue stick moves it left or right, your goal to match the colour of falling notes to segments of the same colour on the wheel. Harder difficulties introduce additional tasks, such as notes that require you to tap specific buttons or blocked out sections where you have to spin the wheel to accumulate points.
I’m aware this isn’t an easy game to write about, and to be honest, even in the hands Spin Rhythm XD is a difficult thing to understand. But once you start to vibe with its exceptional EDM soundtrack, something eventually clicks. Despite being a cheap plastic facsimile of the real thing, the actions you perform when playing Guitar Hero are close enough to the real thing that it’s easy to believe that you’re genuinely shredding the juicy riffs found in Slipknot’s Before I Forget. Once you get the hang of Spin Rhythm’s unique control scheme, you start to feel the same way about its particular mix of funky bangers. EDM is kind of an unknowable genre for a music layman (it’s made using computers, right?), making it equally as believable that these tunes could be created using a handheld device covered in buttons and sticks. It really does feel like you’re building these tracks in real time, despite using nothing more than a regular controller. It’s properly magic.
Spin Rhythm XD is an all time great rhythm game - and yet I never hear anyone talking about it! Correct this fact immediately. You won’t regret it.