Great moments in PC gaming: Nailing a full combo in your favourite rhythm game

Mush Dash
(Image credit: peropero)

Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.

Despite years of frequenting arcades, exhibiting ultimate upstairs neighbour behaviour as I stomp away on soft dance mats, and almost giving the family computer a virus or two trying to download StepMania charts, I'm still pretty bad at rhythm games. They require high execution, dexterity, and a sense of timing that I continue to not possess.

I'm nothing if not stubborn, which means I continue to launch myself head-first into almost every PC rhythm game under the sun. You've got the likes of Project Diva, Muse Dash, DJ MAX, Rhythm Doctor, Friday Night Funkin', Rhythm Sprout, Spin Rhythm, Audiosurf—all of which offer their own spin on the genre. At the core of all of them is usually the same goal: Hit every single note in a chosen song (preferably with the highest accuracy) and walk away with a full combo.

It's a relatively simple task at lower levels. But if I up the difficulty a little too much, I've suddenly got hundreds of notes blurring into one giant unreadable block. My fingers no longer deliberately strike at keys, and instead I end up mashing at my keyboard like I'm five years old again and pretending I can type as fast as the cool nerd hackers in movies. 

It's all about finding that sweet spot. A song with a difficulty that's challenging enough to force me to improve and learn new techniques, but with a note chart that feels within my realm. Liking the song helps a lot too, lest I feel like throwing my keyboard out of a window by the third attempt. I much prefer to be on at least attempt number 20 before I enter keyboard-lobbing territory. 

Do I have a technique for fishing out this holy grail song? Of course not! It's all about vibes, you know? Cycling through previews until a song catches my attention, play through it to see if I enjoy the patterns it throws at me, and decide from there if I want to dedicate an unknown amount of time trying to perfect it. 

(Image credit: Dylan Fitterer)

Feel the rhythm

But sometimes there's that one song. One that, despite knowing I could full combo it, I freeze up and drop a single note or flub the one segment I can normally breeze through. These cursed songs haunt me for days, months, or even years, taunting me with that one tiny part I can't power through no matter what. 

Every other song in the game becomes irrelevant, unimportant, a speck of dust. I'll continue to torture myself over and over, my tormentor wriggling inside my brain like an ear worm. I close my eyes and all I see are note patterns flying across my screen, while the "MISS" and "BAD" judgements laugh at my ineptitude.

Sometimes I think the frustration comes less from dropping the combo, and more from the fact I know I could do it if I didn't care about something so arbitrary. If I stopped tensing up right before the tough segment, or became overly self-aware of every single note I was hitting. I gotta get loosey-goosey, chill out a bit.

(Image credit: 7th Beat Games)

Especially since it seems almost every notoriously tough full combo I finally conquer comes when I expect it the least. When I'm streaming a song to a pal to prove how utterly BS it is, or while I'm playing the game online with friends and casually chatting through the parts that usually have me stressed out. Then it finishes and I'm hit with the "FULL COMBO" text flash up on my screen, and I realise I've finally conquered the one song that's held me hostage for so long.

Being able to finally overcome that one pesky song is such a satisfying feeling, and the full combo stamp next to my results feels like the perfect recognition of the hard work I poured into getting there. Of course, it then means I'm doomed to repeat the cycle with an entirely new song. But hey, do I ever learn? Of course not! It'll feel damn good when I emerge victorious all over again.

Mollie Taylor
Features Producer

Mollie spent her early childhood deeply invested in games like Killer Instinct, Toontown and Audition Online, which continue to form the pillars of her personality today. She joined PC Gamer in 2020 as a news writer and now lends her expertise to write a wealth of features, guides and reviews with a dash of chaos. She can often be found causing mischief in Final Fantasy 14, using those experiences to write neat things about her favourite MMO. When she's not staring at her bunny girl she can be found sweating out rhythm games, pretending to be good at fighting games or spending far too much money at her local arcade.