Piano-playing, musically-dueling Polish composer Frédéric Chopin is back again, with a sequel to his stylish piano game Resurrection Of Music, by developer Forever Entertainment. This time, subtitled Evil Strikes Back, our heroic maestro's duty is to rescue his precious Muses from a new, sinister and enigmatic threat (weirdly reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid's Psycho Mantis) and once again restore decency to the modern musical landscape. Revisiting Chopin's repertoire of classical compositions and giving them a modern makeover, Evil Strikes Back, on the one hand, improves on its predecessor, but also maintains some of the small but significant niggles that hampered it.
After losing his heart in the first game (and presumably for playing music this time around), a much more self-assured Chopin swaps his trusty upright for a far more radical keytar and trades in his golden flying horse-drawn carriage for a vehicular pop culture icon. Our hip and continent-hopping pianist hero travels across the globe to battle it out with eccentric (and sometimes awkwardly stereotypical) opponents. Admittedly, the story is no more or less captivating or comprehensible than the first. It isn't helped by the fragmented dialogue exchanges and cheesy voice acting - in an attempt to compliment the bright and vivid art style with hammy caricatures, they come across as mildly crass rather than interesting.
Chopin duels it out with wackier musical villains, based on musical icons that provide a bit of exposition to move your quest forward. Although the plot never really deviates from dealing with one vendetta to the next, the exaggerated hand-drawn art style and vivid color schemes add a distinct identity to each new location and character, with the more interesting of Chopin's new foes appearing on film sets, county fairs and even Wembley Stadium. There are even some Easter eggs scattered around for the eagle-eyed popular culture vultures among you.
Side by side, both the original Chopin compositions chosen and their modern interpretations are consistently better in Evil Strikes Back, focusing a little more on the style and character rather than setting from the first game. Sometimes the style or genre don't quite match up, and unfortunately, it still suffers from curious decisions and the technical annoyances that still haven't been addressed. For instance, during the opening of a song early on in the game, there's little to no sound at all, which feels unnecessary.
There are initially 10 songs and four difficulty settings on offer, and the Easy setting is still too forgiving while completing a song on the hardest setting is still really tricky. Both the general aesthetic and user interface remains the same, with cascading notes falling towards your piano keys, and a successfully timed press will fill the bar at the top until it's green. When it's full, you win and progress to the next destination.
While the much-preferred touch controls return, the seven piano keys can now be manually mapped to the face buttons. This will help some of you, but the touch control is still much easier to get to grips with. There might be a little trial and error involved, as holding the console in one hand in handheld mode is okay, but playing in tabletop can make activating special attacks a pain, wherever you place it. The game still obscures your view of the descending notes with praise words, and upon completion, you’ll get a breakdown of your ‘musicality’, with a pretty standard three star rating system, an accuracy percentage, and a combo count.
Frederic: Evil Strikes Back is a pretty 'by the numbers' sequel, and despite the (still quite low) track list being superior to the first, the characters, dialogue and presentation niggles still remain. There's plenty of personality to the tracks, and seeing Chopin go up against stadium rockers is strange yet amusing, but the satire and parodies from the first game miss the mark more often than not this time round. The visuals are still bold, and you'll have an enjoyable experience if you can overcome its shortcomings. While Deemo and even VOEZ are still the best of the genre on Nintendo Switch, Frederick: Evil Strikes Back's mix of interesting reinterpretations of classical compositions and sometimes charming art style are still worth a go.