Melatonin is the gentle melody like heaven that I dreamed of

When I say Rhythm Heaven, which minigame comes to mind right away? Is the karate guy punching the potted plant? The trio of child choirs sing? Plucking hairs out of vegetables? For me, it was the Ringside wrestler interview.

No matter what game it is, there’s no denying that there’s something incredibly memorable and satisfying about those rhythmic minigames, which is why I was instantly hooked on Melatonin. Here’s a new indie release from developer Half Asleep that successfully replicates (if ironically, with a sleepy theme) recreating those serotonin hits from perfect landings in the Rhythm minigame Heaven. Set in the mind of a very sleepy person, Melatonin’s rhythm games are all themed around their wonderful dreams of mundane activities: food, shopping, exercise, It’s a light, soothing backdrop for the pleasant visual and call-and-answer gameplay that I miss so much from the Nintendo DS days.

And, like many of the games I’ve mentioned in this series, it’s primarily the brainchild of one person: David Huynh, the founder and sole member of Half Asleep. Melatonin was his first game, a first major milestone on a career path that he had only recently begun to envision for himself.

Huynh’s educational background is in general design – graphics, sound, user interface, architecture, construction. While he’s always been a gamer, he’s clearly No originally wanted to get into game design.

“I purposely want my work to stay away from the game because I spend so much of my day listening to podcasts, reading reviews and the like,” Huynh said. “But I don’t know, at some point, I got really tired of work and I decided who would care if my whole day was just focused on games and other things. I wanted to try this, so I started making games as a hobby probably around early 2019.”

His hobby of making games quickly turned into a career when he quit near the end of 2019 to work on Melatonin. One of his colleagues gave up on him, intending to make art for the project, but dropped out after only a few weeks. However, Huynh is not discouraged – he has a lot of money saved up and is inspired by the stories he has read about the game. developed from sources such as the book Blood, Sweat, and Pixels.

Huynh thinks that Melatonin will take him about a year to complete – it took him three years.

Melatonin is not always the same as Rhythm Heaven. It started out like a WarioWare situation, a collection of minigames of all kinds. Since Huynh was just starting to learn to code, he found that creating short, simple minigames suited his skills at the time rather than creating something continuous and complex. But because just replaying WarioWare wasn’t original enough, he started adding more Rhythm Heaven-like elements to the minigames… only to realize that rhythm games were his favorite part. So he scrapped the WarioWare bits and started working on a complete renewal of Rhythm Heaven.

When you hit the pea with a fork, even that feels good because it sounds like a ‘smoosh’.

However, it was not an easy task for Huynh. During our interview, I noted that while there are certainly other games that have copied the Rhythm Heaven formula out there, they are few and far between. Huynh guesses why – it is difficult to make a rhythm game with the level of precision that players expect from a game like Rhythm Heaven. It’s one thing for the player to match button presses to the time, but it’s also another thing to take into account the delay on the screen, the delay on the speaker, on the button input and all that in the time windows. very strict time on countless different machines. And even ignoring all that, it’s hard to design in general due to the combination of gameplay and music. Both elements need to be consistent throughout development, but any time Huynh wants to make the slightest edit to the design of a level, he must contact the song’s composer. sing mentioned and ask them to change that – a change that is conceivable cascade and affects the whole level.

“Some of the early game songs, the music really suits the gameplay, like shopping levels for example,” Huynh said. “But it is difficult to maintain that because it is difficult to be flexible. [If] I need to change this little thing…I have to remix or have some of the music people I work with to rewrite a piece just for this little thing. [change]. And then I can change it again.

“So it was hard to make the game feel like drifting with the music. You have to do a lot of work and re-edit the content. Later in the game, it’s a bit more liberal; music has more loops. It still feels good and I’m really happy about it. And there are still a few levels where even the sound effects harmonize with the notes. But it’s hard to maintain that.”

Of course, Huynh doesn’t want Melatonin to become a complete copy of Rhythm Heaven. And one of his biggest problems with Rhythm Heaven is the level of precision that players require to get the “Perfect!” result! He’s loosened the window a bit in Melatonin, while also adding a signal for players to know they’re mining sooner or later, so they can improve.

But he also took some very specific cues from Rhythm Heaven’s design to create his own games. He says that since most games only use a single button input, the key to a good, memorable rhythm minigame is to make that single action really, really satisfying. Like swinging a stick and hitting something, or (ala Rhythm Heaven) stabbing a pea with a fork.

“When you hit a pea with a fork, even that feels good because it’s like a ‘smoosh’ sound. There is always an onomatopoeia that you probably have in mind every time you perform these actions. And that only goes for the sound design. So near the end, it’s something that I’ve always noticed that if we’re doing an action, it has to feel like it’s really popped out and there’s some kind of power behind it.”

That might be why I quickly fell in love with Melatonin myself, right from the very first level where the action is eating. The satisfying “brp” sound when opening the box and throwing a pizza, burger or donut into my mouth and intestines chew The sound of eating it when I hit the button on time has been ingrained in my head and fingers for many days now. While I was playing on PC, the Switch version was announced and released simultaneously today – so I’m super excited to continue playing this series as an homage to a series. hasn’t received any love on the Switch yet. With enough practice, I will eventually achieve those perfections.

Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.


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