Out of all the video game demos that are constantly released, a rare few will capture your attention well enough to make you check them out. Even fewer will spark your interest strongly enough to entice you for the full release. But, as incredible as many of the demos I’ve played are, I hadn’t come across one that made me return to it several times — until now. Unbeatable’s “[white label]” demo is a masterpiece; it’s the kind of thing that leaves me in awe as to how human beings can be so creative and brilliant. It’s the one demo I know I’ll be playing consistently until its release — a feat only a few game demos out there, no matter the size and fame of their developers, can accomplish.
[white label] largely marked the end of Unbeatable’s Kickstarter campaign earlier this week, which reached 486% funding. It’s no surprise that it soared through its initial $55,000 goal in 15 hours and gained enough financial support for community and leaderboards, a beatmap editor, and the addition of acoustic versions and more remixes. The demo came out the day before the campaign’s end, later than the community anticipated — but god was this first proper look at the world of Unbeatable and its characters worth the wait.
While the development team had already released an “ARCADE MIX” demo to showcase Unbeatable’s rhythm gameplay, “[white label]” serves as a side story with even more songs to highlight the strength of the game’s two halves.
The first is an adventure game with a colorful cast. In Unbeatable, you play as a pink-haired girl named Beat who is trying to bring music back to the world. She’s in a band with several equally stylish members who are already shown to have pretty distinct personalities. The dialogue uses syntax, grammar, and speed to communicate their individuality in ways that remind me of favorites like Butterfly Soup and Night in the Woods. Stunning art — including brand new screens in this demo — accompanies writing that has already succeeded in conveying Beat’s vulnerabilities and passions. The story is delivered in snippets throughout “[white label],” and the full picture they form together has me dying to know more about how a universe in which music is illegal came to be.
The second half is, of course, the arcade rhythm gameplay you’ll play to an already amazing soundtrack. I rarely talk about gameplay; it’s truly not my biggest concern when I’m playing a game, actually. But Unbeatable’s gameplay is so integral to why it works, and especially so magnificent, that I need to go on about it for a bit.
Unbeatable’s gameplay only requires two buttons — that’s it. Just two simple buttons to hit a flurry of enemies making their way to the center of the screen on a top and bottom lane from either the left or the right, sometimes both. There are four main difficulty modes for most songs you play in “[white label]”: beginner, easy, normal, hard, and unbeatable. It was incredibly rewarding to finish my favorite song, “Empty Diary,” on hard mode after working my way up from my initial floundering on beginner mode. But the beauty lies in how much harder Unbeatable goes in letting you take control of how… unbeatable you want things to be.
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In addition to those difficulty modes, Unbeatable has an assist mode, which still smoothly recognizes your input while automatically letting you hit every note or evade every enemy. This means that, if you choose to input and you end up striking an enemy with imperfect timing, it will recognize this and factor it into your ultimate grade. It has a song speed setting, which lets you put a song in slow motion or at a higher speed, giving you a completely different experience in terms of both gameplay and audio. It has a scroll speed setting, which lets you adjust how quickly or slowly enemies come at you without affecting the actual difficulty setting. And, lastly, there’s a “no fail” mode that does exactly what you think it does. It’s incredibly welcome for me, allowing me to learn how to play Unbeatable — and actually enjoy playing it — without getting overwhelmed.
To make a rhythm game as accessible and flexible as this is an incredible accomplishment. It’s simple, but it can be incredibly tough — or perfectly comfortable enough. The level of customization the Unbeatable demo offers is breathtaking, ensuring I’ll likely never get bored or frustrated. Cathartic after a long day? Relaxing as I listen to its phenomenal soundtrack without interruptions? Challenging as hell? Sure, I can make it any and all of those things with a few quick adjustments. But not frustrating. Unbeatable moves with the grace found in the diversity of its consistently excellent soundtrack. After several sessions of playing this demo, I’m still amazed at how precisely I can attune this to create the exact experience I want at that moment.
After the strange move that was Capcom’s timed demos for Resident Evil Village, the idea of a demo I can enjoy for months on end is especially wonderful. Through its depth and charms, Unbeatable’s demo accomplishes what every demo exists to do: to, among the many fascinating games that are constantly released and revealed, carve a piece in your mind. To make your heartbeat speed up a little when you think about how excited you are for the full release. Unbeatable’s demo has done this in a way few have ever done for me. With such a stupendously powerful
(you could even say,,, unbeatable) start, I can’t wait to see all that its team has in store for the future. Until then, I can see myself often doing what I did last night: seeing a friend is playing it, remembering the tune of one of its many catchy songs, and jumping back in to move to the beat once more.
You can play the “[white label]” demo on Steam or itch.io. If you’d like to support D-CELL GAMES, the team has confirmed there will soon be details on how you can after the campaign’s end. If you want to listen to the incredible songs included in the “[white label]” and “ARCADE MIX” demos, you can do so over on Bandcamp, Steam, and YouTube. New songs will be added every time “[white label]” is updated throughout the year and onward until the game’s release. And if this kind of game is your jam, be sure to check out the fabulous Spirit Swap, which has an ongoing Kickstarter campaign.