The protagonist’s name may be Serenity, but there’s precious little calm in Inis’ apocalyptic iOS rhythm-actioner Demon’s Score, which sees a spirited hero tackle a succession of demons after her scientist father creates an app that opens a portal to the netherworld. It’s the flimsiest of excuses for this fine developer to return to the systems that served DS import hit Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! so well: you tap, swipe and drag your finger across the screen in time with the music as an Unreal Engine-powered battle rages in the background.
Demons’ Score’s soundtrack features an array of Japanese talent including the evergreen Yoko Shimomura and Nier composer Keiichi Okabe, and though pounding beats and chugging guitars are a common theme, it covers a pleasingly broad range of musical genres. Few developers provide such raucous feedback as Inis, and the percussive thumps that accompany each tap are as satisfying as the whistles and cheers in Ouendan. And if the dilapidated settings are an all too familiar sight, there’s a light-hearted tone to the boss fights that echoes Gitaroo Man.Indeed, the opening gambit of one guardian could easily be, “Tonight, Matthew, I’m going to be Mojo King Bee.”
Sadly, the developer’s good work is all but undone by its publisher’s demanding IAP structure. Whether you’ve a penchant for ’70s funk or contemporary J-Pop, you’re asked to sign a pact with the demons you’ve defeated to enjoy a variety of tracks for your journey between guardians. Though each arrives with benefits – boosting the experience points you’ll receive at the end of each track, or increasing the recovery rate from damage incurred by a missed prompt – you’ll have to pay to have Serenity host these otherworldly partners if you don’t want to be stuck with the game’s weakest song: the uninspired thrash you begin with. It seems the devil really does have the best tunes – and you’ll have to pay to listen to them.