Melatonin Review – A Relaxing Rhythm Heaven-Like

The stuff dreams are made of.

I think it’s been a while since I’ve felt as seen by a game as with Melatonin, a pastel-hued indie rhythm game that originally launched more than a year ago on PC and Switch but is now available on PlayStation 5. Across the span of four nights, its main character repeatedly falls asleep on their couch, empty energy drink cans sprawled on the floor and TV still filling their otherwise-dim apartment with stark light. As they sleep, they dream of work, of love, of food, and the future. It’s like somebody downloaded my consciousness and then accidentally left it submerged in a vat of grape Fanta.

Broken up into 16 bite-sized stages and five medleys to cap off each chapter, Melatonin’s rhythm gameplay will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s played something like Rhythm Heaven. Each individual stage presents a simple and unique set of interactions against a new musical track, all involving no more than three buttons on the controller and mostly requiring just one. The trick is to learn the visual and musical cues to complete the stage’s actions in rhythm with the song, like swiping a credit card in a call-and-response with a shop display, or timing the swing of a baseball bat to smack teleporting clocks across the screen.

Based on dream logic, all of the stages are suitably abstract and quirky, which makes the interactions a lot of fun, and each is introduced via a tutorial that uses on-screen cues to help you learn its nuances before you dive into the stage proper with nothing but your ears and eyes to guide you. It takes a bit of practice to really nail these stages, and doubly so if you want to score enough to earn the stars required to progress through each night, but once you get it there’s a lot of satisfaction to be had.

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Each chapter culminates in an end stage that combines the four concepts you’ve learned throughout that “night,” with the game’s finale spanning the entire catalogue, which can sound daunting but remains pretty chill throughout.

It took me a minute to warm to Melatonin’s grading system, which rates your successful hits as either Early, Late or Perfect but really pushes you towards a Perfect on almost every single cue to finish a stage to a satisfactory degree. Thankfully, the game also includes options to tweak the experience to be more approachable, like retaining the on-screen cues even outside of tutorials or opening up the window in which your button presses are graded to make it a little more forgiving.

Of course it’s all helped along by some great little tunes, most of which are so good they’ve entered my regular rotation for when I’m at my desk and working. If you’ve any kind of penchant for comfy, lo-fi beats you’ll no doubt enjoy what’s here. Best of all, if you dig a particular bit of music or level idea you can even go in and make your own with a dedicated stage editor. It adds a bit of extra value to what’s a relatively short, two-to-three hour experience, which makes for a great lazy weekend afternoon play or something broken up over a few nights before your actual rest.

Melatonin is a dreamy, cosy rhythm game that's packed with infectious beats and fun concepts. It's short and sweet, but the perfect kind of game to cap off a busy day or lazy weekend, and the handy approachability settings mean it can be as challenging or chill as you'd like.
Great pastel aesthetic that's maintained throughout
Wonderful, infectious beats
Full of entertaining and surprising ideas
Good amount of flexibility with challenge
Some stages aren't as memorable as others
Grading seems harsh at first