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This rhythm action game about a cute onion wearing a tracksuit is brutal

Banger after banger

I tend to find that a lot of rhythm games hold back from going completely beast mode. It definitely comes from a place of accessibility, where an onslaught of timed bars and coloured symbols can be intimidating for casual players. But what about the rest of us who want to be pummelled to death in time with a catchy beat?

Good news! TinyBuild's new action-adventure game Rhythm Sprout: Sick Beats & Bad Sweets does not hold back. I'm not even halfway through the game and I’ve had my butt completely kicked by its barrage of oncoming beats, and all in perfect time to its soda-pop EDM.

In Rhythm Sprout you play as a cute onion knight who is sent on a quest to find the missing princess Cauliflower and save the veggie empire from the clutches of King Sugar Daddy. Your lil track-suit-wearing veg boy will be stomping through various lands on his quest, from autumnal forests to tropical beaches to spooky mansions, in hopes of saving the veg kingdom at King Brock’s request.

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The humour is goofy and a little silly. King Brock is a broccoli king with a crown and giant white mustache, the count of the spooky mansion is obsessed with Gilmore Girls, and enemies have Katamari-style giant red lips and black nose hair. It’s cute and fun - but I am here for some HARDCORE RHYTHM ACTION. So, let’s chat about that.

It’s all familiar territory here: you gotta hit the left (yellow), right (pink), and down (blue) keys in time with the music. Sprout, the onion knight, steps in time with the beats you hit correctly and trips up when you miss one. When you meet an enemy foodie, keeping in time with the beat will help you dodge and attack until they have been defeated and you can go on your merry way. Your goal is to get from the start of the level to the end without missing too many beats or taking too much damage.

From the very first song, I knew I was in good hands. The level itself is nothing action-packed, just walking out of the grand hall and through the castle gates, but the music is one hell of a bop. The majority is just a left-right-left-right stomping beat - a basic introduction to how to game works before it ramps up - but the song completely slaps. Like, to go so musically hard on the tutorial level boded well for the team's passion for each and every level. This focus on just the left and right keys continues throughout all the levels, with the down key only really being thrown in for occasional flair. Yes, it's simple, but it brings us to that old rhythm game chestnut: easy to learn, hard to master.

There are some seriously fantastic rhythms at play throughout all the levels, of which there are around twenty main ones. The range of musical genres is so refreshing, and includes chill lo-fi beats, heart-thumping EDM, upbeat disco, dreamy sugar-pop, and a bit of hip-hop too. I wish there was a playlist or YouTube video I could link for examples of the music but, alas, the trailer will have to do. There’s one level, Mansion Dungeon, that takes a character’s evil laugh and remixes it to the music, and it immediately sent my serotonin level through the roof. Jammin Jungle is also up there in my favourites. A laid-back tropical pop with loads of satisfying syncopated rhythms? HOT DAMN! I am begging developers Surt to put the OST online somewhere.

If you really aren’t feeling the flow, or just aren’t good enough to keep up, there's a handy ‘beginners’ option that merges the yellow and pink buttons into one. This means that you can press either left or right for those prompts - but you still need to hit the bars in time with the rhythm, so it's not a completely free pass. There are difficulty spikes throughout, but having the beginners option means you can claw your way through and then come back when you’ve downed a red bull or two. The Fruitopia level remains my biggest foe, with a blurry blitz of pink and yellow coming at me so fast I majorly cramped out my fingers trying to keep up.

There are a bunch of different modes too if you’re feeling particularly twisted. There’s ‘mirror mode’ where the screen is flipped left-to-right, ‘turbo mode’ which speeds up the song, and ‘totally random mode’ which just spits random colours at you. There are also gimmicky boss fights, and some bonus levels telling the story of how Sprout came to be King Brock’s onion knight.

What an incredible gem Rhythm Sprout has turned out to be. I’ve not reached the end just yet, but that’s because I keep replaying levels just to hear those absolute bangers again and again. It's out now and available to buy over on Steam, and (I've just spotted this) you can also buy the game's official OST as aditional DLC. Hell yeah.

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