Version Reviewed: 1.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 2
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While the halcyon days of the music-based rhythm game may have ridden off into the sunset on a horse made of discarded plastic instruments, every now and then something comes along to remind us how much fun these experiences can still be. 2012 saw such a concept in the form of Frederic: Resurrection of Music, a game where the spirit of classical Polish composer Frederic Chopin returns to the modern day to battle foes with the power of the piano. Now Forever Entertainment (themselves fellow Poles) have returned with a sequel - Frederic: Evil Strikes Back. But is the concept worth revisiting? Or are they retreading the same well-worn ground once more?
Mechanically, all of the same Guitar Hero-inspired gameplay that was present in the original is still here, but with a couple of new features added. New blue notes require players to press the key rapidly and two-finger chords are now marked with a tie between them. Unfortunately it can still be hard to discern the incoming order of large note batches, due to their lack of visual distinction. Also, the challenge at higher difficulty levels isn't so much about making the note charts more complex as it is a result of just a few mistakes making it near-impossible to recover the player's meter enough to pass the level. There's really no call to be so punitive here.
The first game found Frederic dueling enemies with modernized versions of his classical compositions, but this time around he's confronting parodies of well known musical icons and playing tunes that bear striking similarities to their well-known hits. Nods to "Radio Ga-Ga" are hard to miss during the battle with a mustachioed, royal crooner who's also named Fred. Similarly, a showdown with a certain moonwalking smooth criminal will leave players wondering if Annie is indeed okay.
Sadly, the tunes on a couple of levels aren't inspired by any particular artist (or perhaps the references slipped through the gaps in my pop culture net), which feels like a missed step. Also, the game starts off with primarily '80s inspired artists, only to detour abruptly into "Milady DaDa" (who apparently digs cosplaying as Psycho Mantis). Given Frederic's new leather wardrobe and having swapped his grand piano and golden carriage for a keytar and grammaphone-powered DeLorean, I would have hoped to see the entirety of Evil Strikes Back go with a 1980s theme. Oh well.
Still, the game is quite fun, the music catchy, and the story playful. Thankfully Forever manages to mostly avoid the more egregiously questionable and insensitive ethnic/racial caricatures of the first game. I also feel Chopin's character felt a bit more hollow this time around, but Forever's love for their fellow countryman is still apparent, down to the storyline's nods to the fate of Chopin's heart after his death.
The concept's novelty hasn't worn off just yet and the direction Frederic: Evil Strikes Back takes shows that they could possibly squeeze another chapter or two out of Frederic Chopin's saga before letting him gracefully return to rest.