Normally in a game of this type, the gameplay begins and ends there. The notes get faster and the sequences get more challenging as you move from track to track, but that’s about it. Not so with Go! Go! Break Steady. As your guy or girl dances in the middle of the screen, they’re stealthily being surrounded by nasty little beings known as ‘beatniks.’ If the beatniks encircle you completely at any point, it’s game over. If there are still any in the circle around you at the end of the song, it’s game over. Only if you can get rid of all of them before the music fades will you win and move on to the next section. So how do you do that? Well, after you complete a sequence of notes you can fire a beatnik of your own into the circle. If he hooks up with two or more beatniks of the same colour, they disappear. At this point, the beatniks either side fall in to the fill the gap, and should three or more of the same colour collide they’ll be vaporised as well.
In other words, this is part rhythm action game and part Zuma-style puzzler, though it’s not so much that the two have been mixed together as that you switch between the two styles. This is where things get tricky, as switching from note matching to beatnik chaining takes more than a little getting used to. Most straight rhythm action games are pretty accessible in the early stages, but Go! Go! Break Steady takes time to settle into. For a while you might struggle to get through even the first track. Then you find yourself getting into the zone as far as the note matching goes, and find you can concentrate more on getting three beatniks together or – better still – setting up potential chains of collisions. After a time it all comes together.
All the same, you can’t help noticing that the rhythm action element isn’t all that strong. True, the music – an excellent range of hip-hop, big beat and funk – and the dancing take centre stage, but the actual sequence and pacing of notes doesn’t always seem directly related to it. One of the great things about the rhythm action game, from Parappa the Rapper to Amplitude to Elite Beat Agents to Guitar Hero III, is that the music and your interactions seem to merge together as you go on, so that you can’t imagine the game beats without the audio beats, and visa versa. That rarely happens in Go! Go! Break Steady. In a lot of cases, the music and the gameplay seem strangely divorced.