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Portabliss: Groove Coaster (iOS)


Did you know that you can download handheld games now? That's amazingly convenient! The only inconvenient part of it is finding the right games to buy -- and that's where we come in, with our Portabliss column. In each installment, we'll tell you about a downloadable game on the iPhone, iPad, Android device, DSi, 3DS, PSP, etc. Today: Groove Coaster!

Groove Coaster takes the flashy style of Space Invaders Infinity Gene, a game that turned music into shmup stages, and applies it to a straight-up rhythm game that takes no time to learn and, perhaps, too long to bring myself to stop playing. It's really fun! And, before I go any further, it's temporarily 99 cents, so go buy it.

OK, now back to the game. Groove Coaster takes its name from roller coaster-like lines, dotted with, well, dots that indicate when to tap the screen. When your avatar crosses one of these dots, you tap anywhere, or occasionally swipe to the side, hold, or "scratch," corresponding to the beat. It's pretty easy to understand! And, at first, it's pretty easy to play.

Gallery: Groove Coaster (iOS) | 12 Photos

As you get into later levels, or into "hard" difficulty, the dots become more populous, and the courses become windier and more complicated, even moving toward and away from the screen and sometimes spinning like a ferris wheel -- and visibility is sometimes reduced, only showing you a bit of the upcoming line at a time. These tricks serve to make the game harder and increase your reliance on the rhythm instead of the visuals. The stages are also really pretty -- especially with the sparkly visual effects that go off when you hit a note and the psychedelic vector graphics background.

The "audio" part of the audiovisual experience is even better. It's a collection of songs by Taito's group Zuntata, including a lot I hadn't heard before and many from Space Invaders Extreme and Arkanoid DS. I didn't remember Arkanoid DS's soundtrack being this good! The songs are a pretty wide variety of electronic tunes, ranging from pop ballads to vaguely industrial noise. Perhaps the use of non-licensed music instead of Monsters of Rock is a negative for you, but for me it's a positive. Although, I suppose, the re-use of tracks I liked in Space Invaders Extreme is sort of the same as using tracks I liked on the radio.

As you complete songs, you gain levels that unlock items, including new visual effects, and avatars that grant different abilities. For example, one avatar might play the song correctly even if you miss your notes, or fill the "Groove" gauge required to complete a stage at a faster pace. Also they're shaped like goldfish, Space Invaders, and atoms. In addition, you can use in-app purchases to buy power-up items and additional avatars.

This is honestly the kind of rhythm game I could have seen myself paying $50 for ten years ago -- even more if I had to import it. And now you can get it through your phone, for a dollar. Even when it goes up to its normal price of three dollars, this is a coaster of love.

Groove Coaster is available from the iOS App Store for .99 as a universal App. We're always looking for new distractions. Want to submit your game for Portabliss consideration? You can reach us at portabliss aat joystiq dawt com.

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