I’m not very good at rhythm games that are extremely focused on precise timing. I love Rock Band and other rhythm games, but I just can’t keep a beat very well. I can fudge the timing a bit and with calibration tools it does help a lot, but the first hour or two of Cadence of Hyrule really made me struggle with my ability to keep timing of beats and button presses in sync.
Cadence of Hyrule is an offshoot game that takes the Crypt of the Necrodancer gameplay and overlays the 2D Zelda formula on top of it. Each area has a distinct musical beat and it is your job to move on the beat, the attacks are also based on movement and done automatically. This was the hardest for me to get passed. Always moving, trying to keep the beat was hard enough in the original game, but here, with the Zelda music, the beats are almost impossible to discern sometimes over everything else that is happening. I died probably 25 times in the first hour because I could not keep the beat properly.
There is an option called “Forced Beat” mode where it allows you to forgoe the movement on beat and just go at your own pace. The enemies move when you move, and it turns it into a turn based game. This makes the game playable for me and allowed me to actually progress passed the first few screens. Once I changed the mode, I had a much more enjoyable time with the game and really started to dig it.
The overall game is pretty basic, clear the screen of all enemies, find the four dungeons and complete them then head to the castle to fight the big bad guy. The game uses a procedurally generated map, so no game is the exact same layout. One game might have the Gerudo Valley in the top right corner, or the middle left on another. So it takes the memorization out of the equation for additional playthroughs. The map is something that you’ll reference a lot, making sure you know where everything is and going back to places to uncover secrets or items that you’ll need later on for the Castle. This is where I got stuck for a while.
The Map is extremely pixelated and hard to see the information for the screen you are on, especially in handheld mode, which is where I spent most of my time playing it. Sadly my setup just didn’t allow me to play the Switch docked during the times I wanted to play the game, so I opted for Handheld mode. This made the map nigh impossible to read properly sometimes. Understanding the map without a legend can be really hard, and with items in random locations, it allows you to accidentally skip over and miss an item you need to complete. This happened with me, where I was at the castle, ready to finish the game, and was stuck for a good 30 minutes trying to solve an unsolvable puzzle with the tools I had. I had to leave the castle, go back to the map and travel to every single area with a skull and find hidden rooms to grab the few items I missed, like the upgraded hookshot, or the leaf. Once I 100%ed the map (I still don’t have every item and totally lost at what I need to do to get them) I went back to the castle and finished the game.
For an offshoot game, that mixes an indie game with a franchise as established and recognizable as Zelda… on paper it feels like this game should not work well. However the mechanics meld well into a familiar yet new experience that made me feel like I was playing a new proper Zelda game. The beat movement mechanics are great…. If you can keep a beat, but if you can’t, don’t be stubborn and try to brute force your way through it. Just change the mode and play it without having to also worry about musical cues and timing.
The puzzles, which are a talking point in any Zelda game, are few and far between in this game, and are extremely easy for the most part. There were two that took me a minute to actually figure out, and the difficulty can sometimes be lopsided. I breezed through most of the game once I changed the Beat Mode, every boss can be brute forced once you learn how the game works, and I didn’t die for a couple hours straight. I accumulated around 60 diamonds (the currency you use to buy upgrades when you die) got to the Lava boss, and died around 20 times in a row and lost all of my diamonds trying to beat him for over 30 minutes.
The game takes around 6 hours to complete and allows you to go back and 100% it, with extra characters and a co-op mode, which gives you an entirely new way to play with someone else. For the $25 asking price I feel it's absolutely worth it if you like the Zelda franchise.