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Fixed Beat Mode Makes ‘Cadence of Hyrule’ More Than a Rhythm Game



By adding an alternate mode that completely upends the core gameplay concept, developer Brace Yourself Games has turned Cadence of Hyrule into something more than just a rhythm-based Zelda game. Sure, enabling Fixed Beat — which eliminates the need to hop and attack on cue — transforms the experience into a more forgiving adventure, but it also makes it into a different one. No longer are players on the clock (or metronome) during enemy encounters, and so they can take time to soak in the vibrant, pixelated surroundings while wandering across forests and deserts in the search for treasures. They can plan their approach to battles, manipulating pieces as if it were a chess match. They can assess puzzles and uncover secrets without first having to fear immediate death. For players like me who avoid rhythm as if it were the plague, Fixed Beat saves Cadence of Hyrule by making it into something new and wonderful.

Fixed Beat mode menu

As someone who has spent a lifetime retreating from any activity requiring maintaining a tempo, it was hard not be at least a little wary about my chances of succeeding at the pulsing combat of Cadence of Hyrule. And sure enough, those suspicions were proven correct: I tried to play the ‘normal’ way and was consistently wiped out due to bad timing, betrayed by the part of my brain that also prevents me from being an even mediocre dancer. Despite my best efforts (or some effort, anyway), I simply could not get engaged in hopping around to the beat of the game’s drum; I continually missed steps, became mobbed by dancing enemies, and suffered musical death after musical death. Faced with frustration and disappointment at my own abilities, the thought of abandoning the title altogether popped into my head; after all, why keep failing at something you hate?

Before doing anything so drastic, however, I remembered the little fairy companion who explains things to Cadence at the outset; she had made some (very) early remarks on my poor movement skills, then offered a non-too-subtle hint about a so-called ‘Fixed Beat’ mode. Being the hardcore gamer that I think am, the suggestion was at the time immediately brushed off; I don’t need your pity, game. However, faced with quitting, it was worth a shot, even if I didn’t hold out much hope that the things that frustrated me were somehow going to magically be resolved. And if they were, I suspected that the game would be so stripped of its originality and purpose that whatever was left would feel like a mere husk instead of a full-fledged experience.

Fixed Beat mode Lake

We often forget when talking about game difficulty that different brains process information differently. While my feet don’t know where to go on the dance floor, they naturally fall into a flowing step when on the baseball diamond or tennis court. Who knows why? Some genres make sense to some people, and others do not. Easy, Normal, Hard, and Crazy are all subjective; this is why options can be so important, as the right tweaks can turn total deflation into absolute elation.

And that is exactly what Fixed Beat mode did for me. Rarely have I felt such a sudden and pronounced change of heart about a video game. With the requirement to tap a button at the right moment removed from the equation, Cadence of Hyrule becomes a different beast altogether, something crossed between classic Zelda and turn-based strategy. Because the enemies move only when Link (or Zelda) does, the strategy for dealing with them becomes different. Whereas players can wait for opponents to come to them in the normal mode, now they must go on the attack, forcing the issue if they wish to clear the screen. Or they can back off from encounters, safe in taking time to plan an escape route or weave a path through a populated area by studying movements patterns at their own pace. It’s certainly not more difficult (quite the opposite, actually), but the new tactics do feel different, and they still keep players actively engaged despite losing a core gameplay element.

Fixed Beat mode boss

What’s more surprising, however, is how this seems to make Cadence of Hyrule much more akin to the traditional games in the series. The more casual pace lines up with core Zelda, as each screen’s monsters and secrets can be tackled at one’s leisure — a meandering quest as opposed to strict marching orders. Wandering has always been a pleasure of Zelda games, and here is no different. Exploration unfolds naturally, driven by curiosity instead of a need to keep moving. Take your time to look for cracks in walls or blue butterflies on bushes before deciding whether or not to clear things out; study the location of that out-of-reach heart container before realizing that you don’t even have the proper equipment yet to get it. Sure, enemies will probably have to be destroyed eventually, but as long as you stay still, so will they.

Link has always been accused of being a bit lazy, and so that carefree element brought on by Fixed Beat mode has an effect, causing franchise familiarity to grow stronger. The music seeps into your brain without triggering involuntary reflexes, and the gorgeously colorful 16-bit-ish visuals hearken back to SNES days of yore. Link might be left-handed, but that doesn’t mean he has to suffer from two left feet. Is Fixed Beat mode how the developers intend people to experience Cadence of Hyrule? Of course not, and there’s no question that it changes the game. But it also opens the adventure up in an incredibly fun way and allows more players to experience an outstanding take on the franchise. With procedurally generated maps offering new overworld and dungeon layouts, as well as some alternate puzzles and multiple playable characters, each playthrough feels fresh and unique — an adventure gift that keeps giving.

Fixed Beat mode beach

I still remain surprised at how a simple option tweak changed my thoughts so drastically, and I encourage anyone who loves Zelda but has been on the fence because of the rhythm-based gameplay to give Cadence of Hyrule another look. By deftly implementing Fixed Beat mode, Brace Yourself Games has brilliantly created a side entrance to their sparkling world that anyone can enjoy. For the rhythmically challenged, what might begin like A Link to the Past‘s gloomy thunderstorm could wind up as dazzling as seeing Hyrule field for the first time.

Patrick Murphy grew up in the hearty Midwest, where he spent many winter hours watching movies and playing video games while waiting for baseball season to start again. When not thinking of his next Nintendo post or writing screenplays to satisfy his film school training, he’s getting his cinema fix as the Editor of Sordid Cinema, Goomba Stomp's Film and TV section.

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Most Important Games of the Decade: ‘Dark Souls’

Despite the difficulty and learning curve, gamers are still flocking to the Dark Souls series, and the genre it spawned, in massive numbers.



Dark Souls Remastered Review Nintendo Switch

Over the course of the last decade a lot of games have made large and influential impacts on the medium of gaming but few have done so as significantly or triumphantly as Dark Souls

The pseudo-sequel to Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls took the framework of the original title and altered it considerably. Gone were the many individual stages and hub area, replaced by a massive open world that continuously unfolded, via shortcuts and environmental changes, like a massive metroidvania style map. 

Dark Souls also doubled down on nearly every aspect of the original. The lore and world-building were elaborated on considerably, making the land of Lordran feel more lived in and expansive. An entire backstory for the game, one that went back thousands of years, was created and unfolded through small environmental details and item descriptions. 


The bosses were bigger, meaner and more challenging, with some of them ranking right up there with the best of all time. Even standard enemies seemed to grow more deadly as the game went on, with many of them actually being bosses you’d faced at an earlier time in the game. Tiny details like this didn’t just make the player feel more powerful, they added to the outright scale of the entire game.

Still, if we’re here to talk about the biggest influence Dark Souls had on the gaming world, we have to talk about the online system. While the abilities to write messages and summon help were available in Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls improved on and enhanced these features to the point where they changed the game considerably. 

The wider player base made the online components work more consistently as well. Rarely were players left standing around for 15-20 minutes waiting to summon or be summoned for a boss fight. There were more messages on the ground to lead (or mislead) players, and the animated spirits of dead players warned of the hundreds of ways you might die while playing through the game. 

Dark Souls

The addictive nature of the game and its rewarding gameplay loop would lead to the establishment of the Souls-like genre. Like with metroidvania, there are few compliments a game can receive that are as rewarding as having an entire genre named for them.

Since 2011, the year of Dark Souls’ release, dozens of Souls-likes have emerged from the ether, each with their own little tweaks on the formula. Salt and Sanctuary went 2D,The Surge added a sci-fi angle, and Nioh went for a feudal Japanese aesthetic, to name just a few. 

Either way, Dark Souls’ influence has been long felt in the gaming industry ever since. Despite the hardcore difficulty and intense learning curve, gamers are still flocking to the series, and the genre it spawned, in massive numbers. For this reason alone, Dark Souls will live on forever in the annals of gaming history. 

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Game Reviews

‘Riverbond’ Review: Colorful Hack’n’Slash Chaos



Sometimes a little bit of mindless smashing is just what people play video games for, and if some light sword-swinging, spear-stabbing, laser-shooting giant hand-slapping action that crumbles a destructible world into tiny blocks sounds like a pleasant way to spend a few hours, then Riverbond might just satisfy that urge. Though its short campaign can get a little repetitive by the end, colorful voxel levels and quirky characters generally make this rampaging romp a button-mashing good time, especially if you bring along a few friends.

Riverbond grass

There really isn’t much of a story here outside something about some mystical leaders being imprisoned by a knight, and Riverbond lets players choose from its eight levels in Mega Man fashion, so don’t go in expecting some sort of narrative thread. Instead, each land has its own mini-situation going on, whether that involves eradicating some hostile pig warriors or reading library books or freeing numerous rabbit villagers scattered about, the narrative motivation is pretty light here. That doesn’t mean that these stages don’t each have their various charms, however, as several punnily named NPCs will blurt out humorous bits of dialogue that work well as breezy pit stops between all the cubic carnage.

Developer Cococucumber has also wisely created plenty of visual variety for their fantastical world, as players will find their polygonal hero traversing the lush greenery of grassy plains, the wooden piers of a ship’s dockyard, the surrounding battlements of a medieval castle, and the craggy outcroppings of a snowy mountain, among other locations, each with a distinct theme. Many of the trees or bridges or crates or whatever else happens to be lying around are completely destructible, able to be razed to the ground with enough brute force. Occasionally the physics involved in these crumbling structures helps gain access to jewels or other loot, but this mechanic mostly just their for the visual appeal one gets from cascading blocks; Riverbond isn’t exactly deep in its design.

Riverbond boss

That shallowness also applies to the basic gameplay, which pretty much involves hacking or shooting enemies and environments to pieces, activating whatever task happens to be the main goal for each sub-stage, then moving on or scouring around a bit for treasure before finally arriving at a boss. Though there are plenty of different weapons to find, they generally fall into only a few categories: small swinging implements that allow for quick slashes, large swinging implements that are slow but deal heavier damage, spears that offer quick jabs, or guns that…shoot stuff. There are some variations among these in speed, power, and possible side effects (a gun that fired electricity is somewhat weak, but sticks to opponents and gives off an extra, devastating burst), but once an agreeable weapon is found, there is little reason to give it up outside experimentation.

Still, there is a rhythmic pleasure to be found in games like this when they are done right, and Riverbond mostly comes through with tight controls, hummable tunes, and twisting levels that do a good job of mixing in some verticality to mask the repetitiveness. It’s easy for up to four players to get in on the dungeon-crawling-like pixelated slaughter, and the amount of blocks exploding onscreen can make for some fun and frenzied fireworks, especially when whomping on one of the game’s giant bosses. A plethora of skins for the hero are also discoverable, with at least one or two tucked away in locations both obvious and less so around each sub-stage. These goofy characters exist purely for aesthetic reasons, but those who prefer wiping out legions of enemies dressed as Shovel Knight or a sentient watermelon slice will be able to fulfill that fantasy.

Riverbond bears

By the end, the repetitive fights and quests can make Rivebond feel a little same-y, but the experience wraps up quickly without dragging things out. This may disappoint players looking for a more involved adventure, but those who sometimes find relaxation by going on autopilot — especially with some buddies on the couch — will appreciate how well the block-smashing basics are done here.

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Game Reviews

‘Earthnight’ Review: Hit the Dragon Running

Between its lush visuals and its constantly evolving gameplay, Earthnight never gets old, from the first dragon you slay to the hundredth.




In Earthnight, you do one thing: run. There’s not much more to do in this roguelike auto-runner but to dash across the backs of massive dragons to reach their heads and strike them down. This may be an extremely simple gameplay loop, but Earthnight pulls it off with such elegance and style. Between its lush comic book visuals and its constantly evolving gameplay, it creates an experience that never gets old, from the first dragon you slay to the hundredth.

Dragons have descended from space and are wreaking havoc upon humanity. No one is powerful enough to take them down – except for the two-player characters, Sydney and Stanley, of course. As the chosen ones to save the human race, they must board a spaceship and drop from the heavens while slaying as many dragons on your way down as they can. For every defeated creature, they’ll be rewarded with water – an extremely precious resource in the wake of the dragon apocalypse. This resource can be exchanged for upgrades that make the next run that much better.

This simple story forms the basis for a similarly basic, yet engaging gameplay loop. Each time you dive from your spaceship, you’ll see an assortment of dragons to land on. Once you make a landing, you’ll dash across its back and avoid the obstacles it throws at you before reaching its head, where you’ll strike the final blow. Earthnight is procedurally generated, so every time you leap down from your home base, there’s a different set of dragons to face, making each run feel unique. There are often special rewards for hunting specific breeds of dragon, so it’s always exciting to see the new set of creatures before you and hunt for the one you need at any given moment.

Earthnight is an acrobatic, dragon-hunting ballet that only becomes more beautifully extravagant with every run.”


Landing on the dragons is only the first step to slaying them. Entire hordes of monsters live on their backs, and in true auto-runner fashion, they’ll rush at you with reckless abandon from the very start. During the game’s first few runs, the onrush of enemies can feel overwhelming. Massive crowds of them will burst forth at once, and it can feel impossible to survive their onslaughts. However, this is where Earthnight begins to truly shine. The more dragons you slay, the more upgrade items become available, which are either given as rewards for slaying specific dragons or can be purchased with the water you’ve gained in each run. Many of these feel essentially vital for progression – some allow you to kill certain enemies just by touching them, whereas others can grant you an additional jump, both of which are much appreciated in the utter chaos of obstacles found on each dragon.

Procedural generation can often result in bland or repetitive level design, but it’s this item progression system that keeps Earthnight from ever feeling dry. It creates a constant sense of improvement: with more items in your arsenal after each new defeated dragon, you’ll be able to descend even further in the next run. This makes every level that much more exciting: with more power under your belt, there are greater possibilities for defeating enemies, stacking up combos, or climbing high above the dragons. It becomes an acrobatic, dragon-hunting ballet that only becomes more beautifully extravagant with every run.


At its very best, Earthnight feels like a rhythm game. With the perfect upgrades for each level, it becomes only natural to bounce off of enemies’ heads and soar through the heavens with an almost musical flow. The vibrant chiptune soundtrack certainly helps with this. Packed full of driving beats and memorable melodies with a mixture of chiptune and modern instrumentation, the music makes it easy to charge forward through whatever each level will throw your way.

That is not to say that Earthnight never feels too chaotic for its own good – rather, there are some points where its flood of enemies and obstacles can feel too random or overwhelming, to the point where it can be hard to keep track of your character or feel as if it’s impossible to avoid enemies. Sometimes the game can’t even keep up with itself, with the performance beginning to chug once enemies crowd the screen too much, at least in the Switch version. However, this is the exception, rather than the rule, and for the most part, simply making good use of its upgrades and reacting quickly to the challenges before you will serve you well in your dragon-slaying quest.


Earthnight is a race that’s worth running time and time again.”

It certainly helps that Earthnight is a visual treat as well. It adopts a striking comic book style, in which nearly every frame of animation is lovingly hand-drawn and loaded with detail. Sometimes these details feel a bit excessive – some characters are almost grotesquely detailed, with the faces of the bobble-headed protagonists sometimes seeming too elaborate for comfort. However, in general, it’s a gorgeous game, with its luscious backdrops of deep space and high sky, along with creative monsters and dragon designs that only get more outlandish and spectacular the farther down you soar.

Earthnight is a competent auto-runner that might not revolutionize its genre, but it makes up for this simplicity by elegantly executing its core gameplay loop so that it constantly changes yet remains endlessly addictive. Its excellent visual and audio presentation helps to make it all the more engrossing, while it strikes the perfect balance between randomized level design and permanent progression thanks to its items and upgrades system. At times it may get too chaotic for its own good, but all told, Earthnight is a race that’s worth running time and time again.

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