- Developer: Novarama
- Publisher: Majesco Entertainment
- Release date: 18/05/2021
- Price: £29.09 / $39.00
- Review code provided by Majesco Entertainment
Introducing: Geminose Animal Popstars Review
Before jumping into my review of Geminose, I have a confession. I like to think that I know a lot about kids media. I currently live with an early education teacher, so she needs to keep up on this stuff to know what her kids are talking about and to be able to use it as a teaching moment with them when the time calls for it. As a result, I know more about PBS and junior entertainment shows than I did when my little sisters were at the age to be interested in that kind of stuff.
Which is why when I saw Geminose: Animal Popstars on our list of pending review games, I was a little confused. I’d never heard of this and it looked like this was some sort of a tie in to a kids show or even just a line of stuffed animals. Animals with gemstones for noses, that’s the gimmick right? They play music too, so maybe the gemstone has some magic to help them play music?
Nope, it’s not any of those things. The Geminose are entirely new. No tie in. No merch. Just this game. It’s a bit of an odd duck in that regard, usually games aimed specifically at little kids are some level of tie in. Not so here. So, I dove in anyway to find out what the deal was and found myself caught up in an absolute fever dream of a game.
Fame and Glory
When you start the game you will be greeted by a pair of young girls who have recently had a dream about the Geminose playing a big concert in a mythical land after they’re one of the most famous acts in the world. They think that this is something that can be made a reality so it’s up to you to travel across the world in order to collect up a full band and gain notoriety by either playing shows or other minigames. It’s a simple kids game premise, but it works well enough. The premise really does feel like it’s for a licensed music themed toy line, though. It’s just so strange.
That being said, I think that making the animal characters be from all over the world to promote a multi-cultural angle is a really good idea. While the music might not be super in depth with these ideas (Most of it being basic Be Yourself type songs) there are still portions where it is acknowledged. Each character has a type of music associated with them and many have a cultural food associated with them as well. Never anything wrong with teaching kids more about other parts of the world, in my opinion. None of the animals talk, so it’s hard to really call them super strong characters, but they’re generally cute enough that they can get away without it.
There is a piece of really strange discrimination that I noticed in the game. It’s nothing serious, just something I found kind of weird. The Geminose live in a mansion together (despite the fact that you’re implied to be constantly all around the world but let’s not get into it) and in the mansion there are 8 rooms that the animals live in. However, there are 10 Geminose animals. Two are not given rooms at all, which is disappointing as these rooms are spaces that you can decorate for the animals so these two are denied that functionality. These two animals are the Zebra and the Yak, the common thing they share that the others don’t is having hooves. The only other animal with hooves does have a room, but that’s the all powerful and magical unicorn so who is going to turn them down?
Lights and Sound
The gameplay here is simple, but surprisingly varied for what I thought was just going to be a cheaply made tie-in game. In order to become more famous, you need to collect fans by doing certain tasks along a pathway that takes you from one area to the next. There’s a few different things you’ll be doing, but the most frequent is a rhythm game. The rhythm segments are very simple when it comes to the easy difficulty. There are three positions on both the left and right sides of a circle, up, down, and centered. Holding one Joy-Con in each hand, you then raise or lower your arms into the three positions to move a ring to be around the one that has a note incoming. There’s also arrows that will sometimes point for a very sudden change, extended lines of notes you need to hold for, and the occasional time the game will want you to shake your controllers. As an adult, I found it pretty mindless, but I can see how a young player might find some fun in it.
Upping the difficulty does actually change the note patterns a decent amount, requiring more rapid movements at times and patterns may try to fake you out here and there. The biggest addition for medium and hard difficulty, though, is the way that the game will not give you a Perfect for having the ring in the correct place. That will now only net you a Good rating. In order to get the Perfects that you need for a higher score (the threshold for a passing score increasing with difficulty as well) you will need to now shake the controller when the note moves into the ring.
The same thing can be done by a flick of your controller, so it’s more flicking your controller to the right position rather than just moving it there. While I still wouldn’t call these increased difficulties “hard”, the addition of the flicks and shakes did end up making this part of the game more engaging. The one downside, though, is to get to a higher difficulty, you need to beat the ones under it, so a kid who is ready to regularly play medium or hard is going to need to put themselves through the easy version first.
Check, Check, 1, 2
Still, rhythm games aren’t the only games to be found along the path, so what else does Geminose have to offer? Well, the first thing I encountered was a Cooking Mama styled cooking game. The controls on this one were a bit off from what I would consider to be easily understood. While things like chopping or moving a frying pan made sense, there were some that weren’t as easy to grasp. It took me until the third time that I was using the rolling pin that I understood what it wanted of me. What it wanted was that I hold the Joy-Cons and rotate my wrists in and out, almost like I was turning the stick of a foosball table, but moving my hands together and apart with the rotation. That made sense to me, but nothing happened. Turned out that I needed to do it in time with the Joy-Con movements on the screen, not at my own pace. Okay fine, but that wasn’t the case with anything else in the cooking minigame. This was the only place where it was vital that I have the same timing, even on easy.
That wasn’t the only additional minigame to be found, just the most frequent after rhythm levels. There was also a fruit ninja type game where you have to cut cakes in a specific direction. It’s fine, but the controls weren’t always responsive and it could be unclear what constituted a combo. A find the thing in the picture eye spy game was pretty boring, but I could see it entertaining a younger kid. Last of all, there was a minigame where music notes would fly around the screen and you have to point your pointer at them in order to catch them, simple but effective.
The Weird Side of Fame
The game’s not really that bad, but there’s so many weird eccentricities that I know stand out to me more because I am an adult. I find myself liking it on almost a fever dream sort of level. Not enough to pay $40 to own this in all it’s physical copy glory, but enough that I’m willing to bring it up happily when talking about weird things that I have played. It’s the little things, like the fact that the tiger named Topaz has a blue nose instead of the orange that’s traditionally associated with it. Little funny things that make the whole thing seem pretty funny at times.
The funniest part to me is the creation of Mashups. Whenever you level up your fame, you get the chance to make one of these. You get to select one of your band members and then spin a wheel that will select a second on your behalf. Once both are chosen, they will each do a little dance that relates to the music that is connected with them via their cultural background. Once both have danced, they will dance together and the two musics will be combined into one. Then… a baby is born? Yeah, the game then gives you a hypothetical crossbreed between the two animals that does nothing but fill a slot in a collection book. It’s so strange an out of place that I could only watch in confusion each and every time that it happened.
Visually, I would consider everything to be on the low end of passable for the price range this game’s in. The visual design is fine, bright colors that aren’t garish and give a nice friendly feel to the whole experience. However, the human girls who talk to you kind of look like their faces are melting and they’re really off putting because of it. Thankfully they don’t show up often. The Animals are fine as well, but I couldn’t help but think they would actually look cuter if their noses were smaller. I know these big gem noses are the point, but they’re super distracting and often look plain out of place. The characters also sometimes look kind of fuzzy around the edge when put as a distance, and not in a furry way, but in a something’s wrong with the model way.
As for the music, like I said before, it’s fine for what it is. It falls into typical kids fare, songs about how they’re making rock and roll or how cool it is to be yourself. Anything outside the rhythm segments has pretty lackluster music that I typically didn’t pay much mind to. The one thing about the music that I will say caught my attention was the way that you can alter it before playing the minigame. Each of the animals has an instrument that they are playing while you play the game and each of them has multiple instruments that you can pick for them. Picking a different instrument actually leads to the music audibly changing while you play.
For example, Diamond Dog can provide male vocals, violin, or piano depending on what you choose from him. His vocals can even duet with the female vocals if you have both selected. It goes so far as to allow you to have members of the band sit out if you want a pared down sound. It’s a lot of detail for a kids game, more than I expected, and I honestly think that a child with a particular interest in music might actually get a kick out of it.
Life in the Penthouse
One of the bigger downfalls of Geminose is those gesture based controls. It means that there is no playing in handheld, only tabletop or on the TV. That’s not a dealbreaker, but I know for some people who may have limited movement in their arms, it could pose a problem. Having the option to switch to a button based mode for hitting notes might have helped.
I didn’t have any major problems with the game while I was playing, but it did suffer one crash. Repeating the exact same actions did not incur another, so I am willing to give the game the benefit of the doubt for this being a one off freak accident. The only other issue that I had was that my Joy-Cons did uncharacteristically disconnect a few times while I was playing. Usually these were back to back and I am still unclear on what the trigger might have been as it did not start until I was several hours deep into the game.
The Vegas Revue
Overall, during my review, I found myself a little of two minds when it comes to Geminose: Animal Popstars. On one hand Geminose is one of the strangest games I have had the honor to review this year and I almost want to recommend it to curious folks on that merit, but on the other, I don’t think it’s substantive enough for the oddly curious to drop so much money on it. I’m in a place where I think some children might enjoy it and it would be an easy recommendation if a child was a fan of the property, but this is the start of the property. In the end, I think the price tag is just a touch too high for me to say that you should give it a shot. It’s perfectly average game, all things considered, just really weird.
- A strange experience as an adult
- Game does get more engaging with difficulty increases
- Colorful and friendly visuals
- A strange experience as an adult
- A plethora of strange design decisions