Game Recs

Melatonin is the most hypnotic rhythm game of 2022

This rhythm game is a dream come true.

Half Asleep

Dreams are where we should be able to escape the mundanity of the waking world ...

... but they often just become another way to relive it.

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Half Asleep

As dour as that thought may sound, it’s expressed with utter joy in Melatonin, a new rhythm game from solo developer Half Asleep.

Melatonin is a game about dreams.

Don’t expect to sleepwalk through it, though. While its art and music exude the chillest of vibes, it’ll put your rhythm skills to the test, especially in the hard versions of its 20 levels.

Half Asleep

Half Asleep

Each track in Melatonin is another dream reflecting the anxieties and desires of the sleeper. You’ll work, shop, relax, and burn photos of your ex, all to a fantastic dreamy soundtrack.

If you’re most familiar with rhythm games like Guitar Hero or Beat Saber, you may be in for a surprise. Melatonin isn’t about matching button prompts onscreen, it’s about reading cues from both music and animations to find the beat.

Half Asleep

Half Asleep

Some levels have you watch a sequence play out then try to match its rhythm. In one, you’re ringing up purchases to the beat they appear in onscreen; in another, you’re mimicking the workout of a swole version of yourself at the gym.

Half Asleep

Others have what you could call more traditional rhythm gameplay, challenging you to time button presses to the action. Instead of direct button prompts, Melatonin has more clever ways to get you moving to the beat.

Half Asleep

In one level, you’re playing a shooting game, tapping a button when your reticle lines up with an enemy. In another, you jump from ladder to ladder as they appear to stay out of a rising lake of lava.

Prompts get more oblique in later levels. Figuring out the timing to water wilting flowers or hit flying clocks with a baseball bat is a sometimes frustrating but always satisfying test of rhythm and reflexes.

Half Asleep

Some levels do it better than others.

One has you burning photographs, with different sizes that provide a perfect visual guide to the music’s beat.

Half Asleep

Even the toughest levels can be conquered with practice, though, and Melatonin gives you plenty of that. Each level starts with a practice version complete with onscreen button prompts to help you get your head around the musical puzzle to come.

Half Asleep

If you’d prefer to play the whole game with those prompts or a metronome for help, you can enable them in the options menu.

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In a way, Melatonin’s individual stages all feel a bit like practice for the main event (not to say that they aren’t fun on their own). Melatonin is broken into sets of four dreams, and you need to hit a score threshold to advance to the next night.

Half Asleep

Half Asleep

Before you move on, you’re treated to a medley stage that combines all four dreams into a remix, with each level reemerging for just seconds at a time. Switching seamlessly between four different challenges has the feel of a WarioWare compilation, but with way better music.

The game ends with a mega-mix of every level, giving you a final, ecstatic tour of the entire journey.

Half Asleep

Half Asleep

Not every one of Melatonin’s dreams hit the mark for me, but as a whole, it’s one of the most propulsive, hypnotically fun games I’ve played in a long time.

Melatonin will be released on PC on December 15, 2022.

A Switch release is coming soon.

Half Asleep