Skip to main content

This hypnotic rhythm game is the perfect ‘chill-out’ experience

When I sit down to play a game, I don’t always want a loud or challenging experience. Sometimes I just want to chill out. I’ll often sit on the couch before going to bed and unwind with something low-stakes, so I value any truly laid-back experiences that put me in a trance. In that case, is it any surprise that I’d vibe with a game called Melatonin?

Melatonin - Reveal Trailer

The new indie release is a short, but sweet rhythm game about a restless dreamer. Its striking visual style immediately caught my attention when I first saw it, but its streamlined gameplay wound up winning my heart. If you’re looking for a video game equivalent of “lo-fi beats to study and relax to,” Melatonin is an end-of-year hidden gem worthy of some head-bobbing.

Go to sleep

Melatonin takes place entirely within dreams. Simple narrative interludes show a character struggling to get a good night’s sleep over the course of five nights (perhaps because they’re trying to crash on a couch covered in Monster energy cans). Each night, their dreams manifest as a short collection of themed musical levels. A dream about technology becomes a light gun minigame where players need to blast aliens and robots on beat, for instance. The final challenge every night smashes all of those sequences together into one compilation.

Each level is short, revolving around a simple visual motif and button-timing pattern. One level has me swiping through Tinder profiles with my arrow keys, while another simply has me hitting my spacebar in time with a hypnotist’s stopwatch swinging by a giant eye. Its closest design parallel is WarioWare or Rhythm Heaven, as it takes a microgame approach. If you love that game’s iconic wrestling interview, you’ll likely dig Melatonin too.

A phone user looks at a dating app profile with a poop emoji for a photo in Melatonin.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The experience entirely hinges on good vibes and it has no trouble delivering those. That starts with its simple controls, which usually revolve around one or two buttons that have to be pressed or held on beat. It’s a game that can almost entirely be played with one hand, leaving me to sit back in a comfortable slump while playing. A practice mode appears before each game explaining the exact patterns, but the standard on-screen prompts disappear once the real thing begins. I worried that might get confusing at first, but I found it easy to pick up and master each game without strain.

That ease of play is directly tied to its lovely aesthetic, both in terms of visuals and audio. The entire game sports a cool-colored palette that makes everything feel as soft as a wool blanket. Levels play out in cartoon animation cycles that are easy to read even without explicit beat markers. A personal favorite has me using the left and right arrow keys to fill in spreadsheets as I dream about my day job. I could have skipped the tutorial entirely and still known exactly which arrows to press and when thanks to clean and clear illustrations.

An office worker fills in spreadsheets in Melatonin.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Of course, any rhythm game lives and dies by its soundtrack, and Melatonin delivers there. It features a selection of light electronic instrumentals that perfectly incorporate sound effects as audio cues. In one level that has me burning Polaroid photographs by holding the spacebar as they pass by, the gentle flick of my lighter becomes an important instrument in its low-key beat. In a lot of levels, you could close your eyes and play by sound alone, which makes it a more potentially inclusive experience for blind or visually impaired players.

Melatonin is a short experience, one that I cleared in around 90 minutes. Hard mode and an editor tool add some extra reasons to keep playing, but I appreciate the brevity here. Its quick levels are a perfect nightcap for anyone who wants to wind down to something soft and sweet before bed.

Melatonin launches on December 15 for PC.

Editors' Recommendations

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
Baldur’s Gate 3 is a perfect game, until you die
Baldur's Gate 3 Withers

Baldur’s Gate 3 did it. The highly anticipated follow-up to BioWare’s legendary CRPG series lived up to all the expectations fans of the originals garnered over the course of 23 odd years and is appealing to tons of new players as well. It has an average score of 95 at Metacritic and SteamDB currently shows an all-time peak of over 814,666 concurrent players -- making it one of the most widely played games ever on the platform. I'm thoroughly enjoying playing through the campaign at a leisurely pace with my Half-Orc Wild Magic Barbarian. At roughly 45 hours in, I can confidently say Baldur's Gate 3 offers the most immersive RPG experience in recent memory.

It ties the flexible interactivity and dynamic combat of games like Divinity: Original Sin 2 with the cinematic presentation of a Dragon Age or a Mass Effect -- all while maintaining the breadth of customization options and story richness of the originals. But more importantly, it does a dang good job of simulating fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons rules. It's outstanding ... until you die.

Read more
One of Game Pass’ best titles leaves PC on August 15 and you don’t want to miss it
Death Stranding

While Xbox Game Pass frequently adds new games to its library, some titles do leave the service every fifteen days. Sometimes, those games are fantastic and PC Game Pass will lose a heavy hitter on August 15: Death Stranding. If you aren't familiar with this game, it, ironically, is a PlayStation console exclusive that's part of Microsoft's subscription service only on PC. Death Stranding first released on PS4 in November 2019 and tells a story about a man who is trying to reconnect a post-apocalyptic while dealing with lots of supernatural threats along the way.

It didn't come to PC until July 2020, before that was followed by Death Stranding: Director's Cut for PC and PS5 in the following years. The version of the game that's available through Xbox Game Pass is based on the July 2020 PC release, although it only came to PC Game Pass in August 2022. After a year on Microsoft's subscription service, the deal is up, and it's going to leave on August 15. Death Stranding is a game with a very compelling and socially relevant story and gameplay not quite like anything out there, so Game Pass subscribers who haven't tried this game yet need to before it leaves the service soon. 
It's all connected
Death Stranding follows the journey of Sam Porter Bridges, the adopted son of the President of the United Cities of America, as he attempts to reconnect what's left of America with a Chiral Network and save his sister. Of course, this game has Kojima's signature eccentricity, as Sam also carries around and starts forming a deeper connection with a baby in a pod (called a BB) that helps him avoid deadly creatures called BTs and gives him visions of a mysterious figure played by Mads Mikkelsen. On that note, Death Stranding has a stacked Hollywood cast as it stars people like Norman Reedus, Lea Seydoux, and Margaret Qualley and features characters modeled after Lindsay Wagner, Guillermo del Toro, Nicolas Winding Refn, and more. 
I'm not a huge fan of this game's melodramatic dialogue exchanges and arduous pacing that leaves a lot of the most interesting reveals for the end. Still, it undeniably has some prescient themes about how important connection is, something that became even more apparent and relevant in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Few video game writers can craft narratives that are as engaging and memorable as the ones in Hideo Kojima's games. Though what I like most about Death Stranding is its gameplay, which isn't quite like anything that came out before or since. 
For the most part, Death Stranding is a game about delivering packages. It initially seemed like a shocking change in style for the man behind the Metal Gear Solid series, but the connections become a bit clearer to me as I had to stealthily avoid BTs and saw the Metal Gear Solid V-level of freedom the game gives players in making deliveries. To maximize profits from deliveries, I have to balance all of the packages in Sam's possession, keeping a close eye on the terrain, and finding the best ways to get Sam to his destination without damaging much of the goods he's carrying.

Read more
Ubisoft has every right to delete your games — even if it shouldn’t
The GOG Galaxy Mac app showing a library of games.

Everyone's mad at Ubisoft -- and for good reason.

For a moment, it certainly seemed like Ubisoft was not only shutting down inactive accounts, but also deleting games purchased on Steam. Now, not all of that ended up being true, but the controversy has been a not-so-gentle reminder that you don't actually own your games -- and technically, Ubisoft has every right to delete them if it so pleases.
You don't own your games
If you haven't caught wind of the fiasco, an anti-DRM (Digital Rights Management) Twitter user spotted an email circulating from Ubisoft that threatened to delete accounts on the Ubisoft PC app if they remained inactive. If you choose not to follow the link and keep your account safe, Ubisoft will remove your account. Oh, and it seemed like your games along with it.

Read more