Games of 2022: Melatonin was the best chance to manifest
Rhythm me this.
We don't really get that many rhythm games when you think about it. There are some that are really great, and understandably many people's overall favourites, such as Rez, Sayonara Wild Hearts, Audiosurf, and Thumper. And I think the reason for this relative scarcity is a simple one: it's so dang hard to make a good rhythm game. So you can imagine my excitement when a new one, arriving just as the year wraps up, caught my eye.
Melatonin is a different type of rhythm game, one where you don't necessarily travel through an abstract environment to physically reach a goal at the end of a route. Made by a one-man band, the game explores the life of a young, drifting average joe, via a spontaneous nap through his dreams and waking life.
The first thing you'll notice is the welcoming cozy game aesthetic of the soft pastels that make up Melatonin's colour scheme. The game is split into five chapters, with each one letting you visit inner worlds that revolve around an activity (like going to the gym or using dating apps) or a theme (like work and money). The simple tutorial follows up with a helpful practice mode before you begin each level. This is handy as the speed and even specific buttons you have to hit to the timing of the beat changes. I cranked up the different accessibility settings to make life easier.
Your character plays out his life in these different dreams. For example, at the gym, you're competing with a muscular version of yourself and have to time your button presses over the central circle in order to carry out a proper bicep curl. When you're dreaming about dating, correct timing ensures you can swipe away the poop and robot emjois away from the screen, while sending likes to the profiles represented by the more cutesy emojis sprinkled with love hearts. One of my favourite (and toughest) levels is where you're forced to grab coins raining down from the sky as you sit on top of an inflated piggy bank. It's actually a great nightmare representation of 'trickle down' economics, as opposed to the reality of our current social utopia.
These different levels feel like they'll speak to each of us in different ways, as if you've tackled these fears and gripes that piss us off in our everyday lives. The game ends up feeling strangely uplifting after you're done with each chapter.
It's funny how we've ended up making our hopes and dreams into meme-speech when we talk about wanting to 'manifest' such goals these days. I always think about an old BBC Horizon documentary on dreams, and how they're literally a way for us to improve our skills and become better. When everything around us keeps falling apart, it's hard to keep in mind just how important our literal dreams are and the value of sleep. It takes a certain type of vulnerability to admit to being human and wanting something better for ourselves, whether that's a new professional goal, relationship or an end to a specific worry. Melatonin reminds us of that and feels special. In the new year, it's time to manifest.