Groove Coaster is a new free-to-play iOS game from Taito. It’s a semi-sequel to the company’s previous release Groove Coaster, with added free-to-play and social components in an attempt to broaden its appeal. Both Groove Coaster Zero and its predecessor are available now from the App Store, and the new game rewards those who have the paid original stored on their device with free bonus content.
Groove Coaster Zero’s core gameplay is identical to its predecessor. Players pick a music track on which to play, and must then “burst” as many markers as possible by tapping, swiping or holding the screen according to the type of marker it is. Points are scored according to how accurate your timing is, how many markers are burst in succession without a mistake, and how many hidden “Ad-Lib” points are found. Making mistakes reduces the “groove bar” at the top of the screen, and emptying this or reaching the end of the level with it below a certain threshold counts as a failure.
There are several key differences between the free-to-play Groove Coaster Zero and its paid predecessor. Firstly, Groove Coaster Zero requires players to be connected to the Internet in order to play, while Groove Coaster may be played offline. The reason for this limitation is that Groove Coaster Zero downloads game content as it is needed, while Groove Coaster stores it locally. This particular feature has drawn significant criticism from App Store reviewers who were fans of the original, as it is obviously inconvenient for those who wish to play when in an area with poor cellular reception or no Wi-Fi.
Secondly, while Groove Coaster made use of Game Center for its social features and leaderboards, Groove Coaster Zero also incorporates a proprietary Taito ID, requiring users to remember yet another username and password combination in order to sync progress between devices and view leaderboards. This is a somewhat strange decision on Taito’s part, as the combination of Game Center and iCloud offers all the same functionality of a Taito ID without requiring the user to sign up to any additional services. Presumably it is a means of collecting user email addresses, as the player is rewarded with free content simply for signing up.
Thirdly, the progression in the game is somewhat different. Rather than automatically unlocking tracks as previous ones are completed, some tracks are unlocked by attaining sufficient experience points to level up, while others may only be acquired through the use of in-game currency, a small amount of which is provided for free and immediately spent in the tutorial on a track of the player’s choice. To support sales of additional content, the player has the opportunity to play a single “Recommended” paid track for free every 48 hours. There does not appear to be a means of earning coins through play — they must be acquired through in-app purchase. This has drawn the ire of some App Store reviewers, but many of the negative comments don’t take into account the fact that Groove Coaster Zero does provide a significant amount of content for free, particularly for those who owned a copy of the original.
Ultimately, Groove Coaster Zero is a good means for new players to try the game out for free, but the new additions to the formula to make it free-to-play aren’t necessarily for the better. The original game — which is still available for $2.99 — can be played offline, features a larger amount of bundled content and sticks to Game Center rather than a proprietary online ID, making it a more attractive option for those who don’t mind paying up front. It also features a variety of additional tracks available via in-app purchase for those who wish to customize their experience. The only real benefit of Groove Coaster Zero over its predecessor is the fact that there is no up-front cost, making its viability somewhat questionable, particularly while the original is still available.
Groove Coaster Zero is not yet listed on the App Store leaderboards. Check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.
Groove Coaster is a great game, but the tweaks to make it free-to-play aren’t necessarily to the game’s benefit. One to watch and see how players respond.