Some people, myself included, just love to live under a rock. I have missed so many trends — you wouldn't believe how out of touch I am with the rest of society at large. I even managed never to play Rock Band. Not. Even. Once. So if you're like me and you've somehow managed to dodge every single rhythm game ever released, then you have most certainly missed the boat on Cytus. It's our Android Game of the Week, and we think it happens to be one of the Best Android Games that we've played in a while.
A long-running series of rhythm video games from Rayark Games, Cytus has been going strong since 2012 and shows no signs of stopping. Cytus II, one of the newest entries in the series, was released for mobile in 2018. Despite its age, you probably wouldn't guess that this title is over 3 years old now, based on its high production quality, great control scheme, and gorgeous anime-styled character designs.
Most importantly, though, Cytus II boasts a collection of amazing soundtracks for you to vibe with. You're definitely going to want to play this one with a set of sick headphones. Most of the tracks lean heavily into the EDM/chiptune/dub-step genres, so if that's not your scene, then you may not find this game quite as enjoyable as I do. That being said, there's still a good variety of songs, ranging from rapid-fire BPM insanity to more relaxed tracks that allow you to take things at a slightly more chill pace.
Mechanically speaking, it's safe to say that Rayark has nailed the mobile rhythm formula down to an absolute science. The touchscreen controls of Cytus II (and previous Cytus-adjacent titles like it) are simple yet fantastically challenging, often pushing the boundaries of what you think your thumbs (and brain) are capable of.
Here's how the gameplay works: upon starting a track, a horizontal line bounces up and down the screen to the beat, keeping time as your visual metronome. Accompanying the metronome, notes are represented on-screen as dots you have to hit on cue, lines you need to trace in time with the beat, and crescendos you need to press and hold to execute properly.
As with most rhythm games, there are varying levels of proper execution. You hit notes with a Perfect, Good, or Miss rating, and your score is dependent on how many Perfect/Good hits you can rack up combined with how long your string of combos is before you drop a beat (in the bad way) and break a combo. Completing a level with a 100% perfect rating and an unbroken combo will net you the coveted Million Master ranking, which is above even S-rank. I found Cytus II to be somewhat forgiving control-wise, but I've only achieved Million Master rank twice to date. I clearly still have a long way to go in my quest to dominate the charts.
Using this formula, Cytus II manages to craft some incredibly difficult tracks, and yet you can conceivably complete all of them using just your thumbs. Precision is key, but I have yet to feel like the difficulty is unfair. I'm partially deaf, but I found the visual cues for when to press notes and what type of input you need to make were very easy to interpret. Each track also has up to four difficulty levels to choose from, so more casual players can still progress and have fun without feeling like they're backed into a corner with no options left.
Speaking of options, one of the more interesting aspects of Cytus II is that it has a huge collection of DJs you get to play as. Paff, Neko, Xenon, even world-famous VTuber Kizuna AI make up this Smash-worthy roster. Most of these DJs are purely fictional and exist only in the context of Cytus. Still, Cytus II uses in-game social media and other unlockable files to weave a disconcertingly believable picture of the future.
Set a couple of hundred years in the future, give or take, Cytus II's central plot-point revolves around Æsir-FEST, a live music event that happened a year prior to the events of the game. Supposedly, legendary DJ Æsir was finally going to put on a live concert, joined by fellow DJs PAFF and ROBO_Head in an epic lineup that would be one for the ages. On the day of the FEST, though, Æsir was a no-show, and there was an odd black-out backstage right after PAFF's performance.
Skipping ahead to the present, fans and public figures alike are still trying to piece together what happened at Æsir-FEST and why Æsir disappeared without a trace. Speculation runs wild amidst all this drama, but you'll start to piece together this mystery and get a closer look at the dystopian future of Cytus II by playing through as many DJs' playlists as you can, which in turn unlocks more files and social posts about them.
I wouldn't consider myself an achievement-hunter, a leader-board climber, or motivated in any sense of the word to "excel" in video games. I'm just here to have a good time, you know? However, there's just something about Cytus II that is so addictive that I constantly find myself replaying past tracks to try to beat my own scores and complete all of the difficulty levels for each track.
And in case you were wondering, you CAN play this game while on the elliptical at the gym, and it makes a KILLER workout soundtrack. Without realizing it, the music had me going much harder than I normally do, and I was exhausted afterward. But I got that second Million Master rank and a great workout, so it was totally worth it.
In short, Cytus II takes rhythm gaming to a new level for the low price of $1.99. There are, however, IAPs for additional soundtracks and characters, which can rack up a serious tab quickly. To get all of the soundtrack expansions and extra characters, you'd probably be looking at upwards of $100. However, Cytus II is available for free on Play Pass, and the base game already comes with a great suite of content that's built right in for no additional purchase.
I can safely say that this is the best rhythm game I've ever played — although it is also the only rhythm game I've ever played, so take that as you will.
Rhythm is a DJ
Your thumbs and ears are NOT ready for this
Cytus II is a fabulous foray into mobile rhythm games, with easy-to-pick-up controls, increasing levels of challenge, and tons of tracks to play and perfect.
A lifelong gamer, Mogan has had a controller in hand since the PlayStation 1 ruled the world and Neopets seemed eternal. She loves to play new and old games alike, especially if it's something weird and charming. Puzzlers, JRPGs, adventure, and rhythm games are her favorites.