It’s no secret that rhythm games are my favorite genre on mobile, so you can imagine how excited I was to get early access to Rotaeno for Android – a groundbreaking new rhythm game that sets the rotary controls at the heart.
From Dream Engine Games and XD Network (the folks behind beloved action-RPG, ICEY), playing Rotaeno feels like a step towards something bigger. Like playing DDR or Beat Saber for the first time, Rotaeno’s imaginative approach to mobile rhythm gaming feels like the first wave of a new wave in the genre.
Not only is Rotaeno a great game in its own right, but I can’t wait to see what other developers can do with this concept now that it’s available.
Let’s talk about the game’s most obvious hook first: the gameplay. Most rhythm games, even Dance Dance Revolution and Beat Saber, follow a pretty standard formula. Commands flow in one direction towards the player and must be executed at a specific time, usually straddling a line of judgment to determine if your shot was perfect, good, miss, etc.
So how would the rotation mechanic work in a rhythm game? Easy! The judgment line is wrapped in a judgment circle. The notes fly from the center of the screen towards the judgment circle and you have to rotate your screen to make sure the notes fall in a certain area on the line to be considered a successful hit.
There are essentially two “baskets” to the left and right of the circle. Some notes simply need to be tapped or held anywhere along the judging circle, but others need to be taken into the baskets to be executed correctly. As the notes fly towards the circle in different directions, you must continue to rotate your phone to maintain alignment with the judgment circle.
|Developer||Dream Engine Games|
|Game size||Varies with device|
|Release date||May 30, 2022|
There’s also those awesome spin notes, which require shaking your phone in a quick left or right spin to get out of it. These are usually layered over the more punchy beats of the songs, so it’s totally awesome to perform them successfully.
This also presents a certain level of danger to the player, as I am Of course that someone in the Play Store reviews is going to claim that a spinning note sent their phone flying out of their hands and into their TV screen, or their baby, or something.
What I mean is that the control scheme may seem intimidating at first, but the varying difficulty levels and scaling of the game gradually take you to the more intense levels. There’s even an additional advanced tutorial that kicks off the first time you try to play a song above difficulty level seven.
Rotaeno: progress, packs and purchases
Progression occurs in two different ways. As you play tracks in quick play mode you earn experience points and with each level up you earn a traveler’s badge. Traveler badges can be redeemed to unlock additional tracks, each of which includes three difficulty levels.
After reaching level 10, you unlock Story Mode and start earning “miles” in addition to XP and Traveler Badges, which are used to unlock cutscenes that advance the story.
If you max out your base track set and start getting bored of replaying the same ones over and over again, you can purchase additional song packs through the in-game store. To purchase song packs, you will need to use Stellar Gems, which are the game’s premium currency. 500 Stellar Gems add up to around $5, so extra song packs could really start adding up fast if you’re not careful.
Deemo II and Cytus II used similar systems and if you bought all the available song packs you would literally spend hundreds dollars on the game. This is not unique to Rotaeno and is an understandable cost considering that this licensed music must come from somewhere. Better for musical artists to be compensated for the use of their works than to have a mediocre or boring track list.
Rotaeno: Endless Rain
Good stories, or even just interesting these ones are do not a given for rhythm games. I’d even go so far as to say that there are two types of rhythm games: those that focus solely on gameplay and don’t bother to include a story at all, like Beatstar, and those that try to weave a global narrative in their music-based worlds, as did Cytus II and Deemo II.
Fortunately, Rotaeno falls into the latter category. I know a lot of rhythm players don’t care about the story, they just show up for the frenetic action and that’s fine. Personally, I appreciate having an end goal to achieve beyond high scores.
Rotaeno’s story centers around our adorable protagonist, Ilot. High-spirited, obsessed with her idols and dismissive of school, Ilot seems like your average student. But his situation is anything but ordinary. It started raining on Ilot’s home planet, Aquaria, twelve years ago… and it never stopped. The “endless rain” is slowly flooding Aquaria and all citizens of the world must be gradually evacuated to higher and higher ground to stay ahead of the rising waters.
It’s a dire situation, but Ilot is just annoyed that she has to move to an apartment a few floors up. Through this chaos, a deeper story of love and lost friendship begins to form, eventually taking Ilot beyond the sphere of its waterlogged planet and among the stars!
I won’t say too much about the story to avoid spoilers, but I will say that engaging with the story mode is purely optional. Players who are just in for the action can get a lot of it without ever delving deeper, but players who want to explore more of what Rotaeno has to offer will find great writing, charming art, fun dialogue, and fascinating world-building. The story mode is a great journey and I recommend playing it to maximize your experience.
Rotaeno: Is there anything less than great?
I’ve encountered a few quirks here and there while playing Rotaeno, but in all honesty I’m not sure how much of that has to do with the game versus the phone/OS I’m playing on.
On my OnePlus 9 running Android 12, I encountered an issue that prevented me from playing for a few days. I would log in, press start, the game would begin to load, then stall about three quarters into a “checking for updates” status that never progressed further. This issue eventually resolved itself, but it was annoying to be stuck for a few days.
I also think it’s strange that the game asks me to accept the TOS almost every time I log in, but not stillso it’s hard to tell if it’s a glitch or if it’s intentional.
Worse still, I ran into an almost game-breaking issue with the gyro controls, but luckily the developers foresaw this problem and incorporated a few workarounds. Essentially, your device must have gyroscopic or accelerometer capabilities in order for you to play Rotaeno.
At some point, and for unknown reasons, my rotation sensor failed and I couldn’t play anymore. Fortunately, the game detects when you’re missing an unusual amount of notes and prompts you to review your rotation control options. As you can see in the image above, the first default option, Gyroscope (recommended), didn’t trigger when I turned my phone, but the other two, Gyroscope (compatibility mode) and Accelerometer, worked.
I always play using compatibility mode and the gaming experience seems to be as good as the default recommended option. If you choose Accelerometer, the game quickly warns you that the gaming experience will suffer from using this mode. Keep this in mind for your own game, in case you need to troubleshoot your rotation sensor.
Rotaeno: Should you buy it?
My experience with Rotaeno has been great, despite the few technical issues I’ve had with the game so far. It’s a very welcome change of pace from most other modern rhythm game control systems. , but the game doesn’t just rely on its spin gimmick to sustain itself.
The story, UI, nice graphics, great variety of songs, and an intriguing story all combine to form a complete rhythm game experience that I think anyone could enjoy. The most difficult difficulties are do not for the faint of heart, but they’re never in other non-rotating rhythm tracks either.
Rotaeno will release for all players on May 30, 2022, with a starter pack of twenty-four tracks, each with three difficulty levels. The base game costs $2.99 and additional song packs seem to start at $4.99 (I bet mega-packs will be added later with higher prices). Considering the groundbreaking work that has gone into this cutting-edge game, I think it’s a fair price.
I would recommend Rotaeno to almost anyone – at least for the novelty of the gaming experience – but particularly for fans of rhythm games, Rotaeno will be a must-have for your game library.