Deemo (Nintendo Switch) Review

Game Title: Deemo
Developer: Rayark Inc.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital
Battery Life: 5 – 7 hours
Download: 2.7 GB

It’s not every day that a plotline in a video game will make me start to break down and cry, but it has happened before. The shock of many moments of the Zero Escape series has hit me hard in the feels, but one genre you would not expect this to happen is the Music Genre of gaming.

Yet, it happened. Deemo: The Last Recital I reviewed on the PS Vita, but couldn’t make a video review because it couldn’t be played on the PlayStation TV. I was equally disappointed when Deemo came to the Nintendo Switch and couldn’t be played in Docked/TV Mode.

Thankfully, that has changed. Recently, Deemo on the Switch got an update with button controls, so I grabbed it from the eShop, ran through it again, and am ready to finally get a Video Review going for it. So, without further delay, here is my review of Deemo for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

Deemo is what you would call a game that utilizes Visual Storytelling. You are given cutscenes across the game without any dialogue, letting the visuals of what it shows tell you what the story is and what is happening.

The plot of this game is about a young girl falling through the ceiling into the strange home of Deemo, a lonely, dark entity that spends his time playing the piano. After he catches the Little Girl, a tree begins to grow from the piano as he plays his music and so the two of them work together to create a way to reach that hole in the ceiling and return the Little Girl back to her home.

The story of Deemo is unique not just in its Visual Storytelling, but in its finale. I can’t say anything to spoil it, but Deemo has one of the most emotional, heart-tugging stories in any game I’ve played, let alone Music Games by themselves. It’s more than worth the journey through the music you experience as you play the game.

Gameplay

Deemo is a Rhythm/Music game with exploration elements thrown into the mix. Across the entirety of the game, you’re going to be participating in Rhythm-based gameplay as you clear the game’s library of songs, along with unlocking new areas, cutscenes, and songs by exploring each room of Deemo’s home.

How you progress is pretty simple. As you clear songs, you unlock new songs. This is very typical Rhythm-Game formula. The more uniqueness is the method of Exploration. Many Story Scenes that push you towards new objectives can only be unlocked by interacting with objects in rooms of the house.

To get it out of the way, there is one glaring flaw in this game: The lack of explanation. There’s a lot to this game’s exploration, but nothing in the game tells you that you even can explore. You have button prompts for the Music Menu and Settings, but only vaguely-flashing icons when new rooms open up, and even when you enter them, nothing really shows you what can and cannot be interacted with. This leads to a load of confusion.

The only thing that is explatined via a tutorial screen is how you play the Rhythm Game, showcasing how to use the touch screen and how to use the buttons (after this last update) to hit the notes and gain scores as you play through each song.

Speaking of that, playing Deemo is kind of like playing Guitar Hero or Rock Band, without the instrument peripherals. There are notes that fly down towards a horizontal line at the bottom of the screen and you either tap the screen or hit a button to hit the note. If you recall the PSP game Rock Band: Unplugged, it’s very similar to that, but instead of the long “hold the button down” notes from Rock Band, you have slider notes where you slide your finger across the screen for longer sequences.

As I said earlier, clearing songs unlocks new songs and also increases the height of the Tree in the story, which is directly related to reaching milestones for story scenes. The better you perform in songs, the more height the tree gets and the quicker you can reach the Story’s Finale.

That also comes into the game’s length and the content involved here. I managed to unlock the game’s Ending after clearing 55 of the game’s library of songs. Assuming you don’t fail any songs (which you will if you play on anything outside of the Easy difficulty), that gives the game’s story completion a length of around 4 hours or so.

Now, that’s not a long time, but the rest of the game’s content makes up for that. Once you clear the story, you unlock the ability to Replay the story in a sort of New Game Plus to unlock new Story Scenes known as “Moments” that further expand upon the plot that unfolds. Considering some of these cannot be unlocked until your 4th playthrough, that raises that 4 hours to more like 10-12 hours.

But that’s not to say you’re doing the same thing all over again. Songs aren’t specified for story progress. After that initial 55 songs, you can clear the rest of the game’s library of songs during those later playthroughs. As of the latest update, the game has 241 different songs to play through, so in terms of experiencing each song, we’d put the amount of content without repeating anything at around 16-18 hours. That is, of course, assuming you fail none of those 241 songs. So, you have a lot to do.

Price-wise, music games have always been odd and that’s one thing we’ll go into. Deemo definitely has a lot of content to it, but Vita gamers will quickly notice that the Switch version of Deemo costs $30 vs the $15 price tag of the Vita version. So, let’s make a quick comparison, because there is one major different. The Vita version has Paid DLC. On the Switch, however, all of the extra songs and all future songs are added via Free Patches.

To be specific:

Vita: Base Game ($15) + DLC Bundle ($35) = $50
Switch: Base Game ($30) + Free Updates = $30

So, the Switch version not only has the same content for less, but also lets you play on the TV and on the go (which the Vita version cannot, considering it is not compatible with the PSTV).

Controls

Deemo has always been a touch screen game, so everything that can be done can be done with the touch screen. However, that’s not the only way you can play. The Switch version is the first release of Deemo to contain physical button controls, and the ability to play on the TV without specialized equipment.

As far as button controls go, Deemo’s notes are divided into 3 categories. By default, one color is handed with the Arrow Buttons, one is handled by the Face Buttons, and the final is handled by holding down the ZL or ZR triggers. The Arrow Button and Face Button controls can be customized as you see fit, so you are free to make a scheme comfy for you, but the trigger notes cannot be customized.

Presentation

Visually, there isn’t a lot to see here. The cutscenes are hand-drawn animations and the actual gameplay showcases pretty simple notes traveling down the screen. It is worth noting that a lot of the artwoirk is very well-done and has a unique style to it, but there’s no gauge for graphics and whatnot.

Performance is something I have no issues with. Short load times. Smooth frame-rate. You know how that goes.

Battery Life

Given the game’s simplistic style, I expected pretty good battery life out of this game. Here is what I got, from 100% to 0%

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 5 hours, 00 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 5 hours, 33 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 6 hours, 52 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 7 hours, 10 minutes

As expected, you can get a ton of Battery Life out of this game.  I’m always amazed when a Switch game can exceed 7 hours of Battery Life.

Summary

In conclusion, Deemo is a Rhythm Game with an emotional story and a lot of calming music, perfect for quick sessions when you want to play something that is relaxing. Although the lack of explanation is still very confusing, having 241 songs to play through will definitely keep you busy.

9/10

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