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Rhythm games are a niche genre these days, with mostly indie devs trying their hand at the genre what with games like Bit.Trip Runner, Thumper, Crypt Of The Necrodancer, etc. Then there’s osu!, a freeware rhythm game developed by Dean “peppy” Herbert for PC.

I came across osu! as a recommendation by a friend and decided to try it out (although reluctantly). But then I found out that the game actually is pretty fun and addictive.

Of course, no rhythm game is complete without a good selection of songs and since it’s community driven (by an active and dedicated user base of over 10 million players around the world)  osu! has thousands of songs to offer (called “beatmaps”) across a variety of difficulties and gameplay modes.

The difficulty ranges from being a complete cake walk to “OMG it’s impossible for a human to do this”. As for the gameplay, osu! includes various modes and each of them are inspired by other rhythm games –

1. Standard osu:

It’s inspired by Nintendo’s Elite Beat Agents (on the DS) and the gameplay is very similar: you guide your cursor (or finger, if you’re using a touch screenl) across hit marks, sliders and spinners in beat to the music all the while trying to be as accurate as possible since missing by even a second can reduce your overall accuracy count for the map.

2. Taiko:

This mode takes after Bandai Namco’s Taiko No Tatsujin series of drum rhythm games (which has always been Japan-exclusive); you tap buttons (Z, X, C, V on the keyboard)) to the markers appearing from right to left (although it would’ve been more fun with actual drumsticks).

3. osu!mania

This is a DJMax clone; you have to press the appropriate buttons (F, D, J, K) in accordance with the vertically falling beats

4. Catch The Beat:

Here, you have to catch falling fruits onto a large player held by a chibi anime-styled character.

Yeah, the game is heavily influenced by Japanese and Korean pop culture, so you’ll come across several anime related (or inspired) stuff like beatmap backgrounds, combo character portraits and even J-pop/K-pop songs  However beatmaps are available in a variety of genres: electro, rock, DnB, pop, you name it and plenty of mainstream tunes are also downloadable (provided someone takes the pain of mapping the song of your choice).

The ranking system for each mode is similar to their original counterparts as well; accuracy is the primary focus here and for not missing a single note, you’re rewarded with an SS rank. Otherwise it’s S, A, B, C and D (from highest to lowest) depending on how well you played. If you’re online, you can see the scores of the 50 highest scores for that beatmap and usually these scores are enhnaced by the use of difficulty enhancing mods *shudders* – the base gameplay on higher difficulties is hard enough as it is.

There are other kinds of in-game mods too: difficulty reduction (like slowing down the song) and Special mods (like auto-play for example, that plays the map for you so you can get a feel for it).

Although you can play alone, it’s best to register an account since community is a huge part of the game. By registering, you can play multiplayer with others (in lobbies of upto 12 people), download additional beatmaps and updates and even use the forums. Here’s the official osu! website, and it’s free to both download and register.

The game (just the osu mode) has also been ported to phones and i have to say, the touch screen feels much better to use than the mouse – not surprising since Elite Beat Agents also requires a stylus. The ports are for iOS, Windows phones and Android however my knowledge, the phone versions aren’t supported as extensively as PC – or at all, as is the case with the Android version which is outdated and no longer supported; you can however get third party clients – like opsu! on Android which although lacks online and has fewer available beatmaps, is great as a portable osu!

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