While the spectacular failure of Balan Wonderworld might have made “one button game” a taboo phrase in the eyes of many gamers, the idea isn’t inherently bad. Going for simplicity in the controls theoretically gives a game the opportunity to take a freewheeling approach to everything else. And since most games don’t go this route, a well executed one button game can be quite creative and different if it so chooses. Rhythm Doctor, an exhilarating one button rhythm game from 7th Beat Games, understands this as well as anything I’ve played in recent memory.
Rhythm Doctor centers on a new type of medicine where you treat cardiac patients by interacting with the rhythms of their hearts. It’s essentially a rhythm game where you do exactly one thing: slam (or tap if you’re a square) spacebar on the seventh beat of each musical phrase. Sounds simple, you might say. How could that be interesting? True, it’s not so hard at first. But as Rhythm Doctor introduces ideas like polyrhythms and compound time signatures and asks you to keep track of multiple lines simultaneously, things get pretty intense. Even as one of the .0001% of people who had to take a mandatory eurythmics course in college, I still found it challenging.
The minimalist action of pressing spacebar never stops being engaging because Rhythm Doctor isn’t afraid to revel in its freedom everywhere else. Rhythm Doctor can constantly push you with new ideas and challenging rhythms precisely because you never need to think about the mechanics of what you’re doing. A rhythm game this complex with more involved controls could easily collapse under its own weight and become frustrating for all but the most hardcore players. Rhythm Doctor goes absolutely wild with its visuals too. Interactions and stories involving your patients play out against shifting backgrounds. The banging soundtrack is accompanied by all kinds of trippy effects, and they always feel true to the music. Some of them are even meant to disorient you and throw you off your game, but it’s all part of the fun.
Rhythm Doctor is still in early access. You can finish it in about 3 hours now, but I imagine the developers will be adding more content. Even in its current form, it’s already a blast. Rhythm Doctor never stopped surprising me, and I think spent an embarrassing amount of my time playing with a stupid grin on my face. And it does all this as a one button game. Well really, it does all this because it’s a one button game that understands how to use the freedom that buys in bold and creative ways. Great times, would press spacebar again.
Find Rhythm Doctor on: Steam