Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rhythm Heaven - I don't have the beat

"Gosh, the kids love all those music games."

"Yeah. And they really like our Wario Ware games."

"Let's mix the two together!"

"How does it taste?"

And that is the question - how does a mix of music and mini-games taste.

I'm a fan of the music genre of games. I had my Playstation modded so that I could play a retail copy of DDR 3rd Remix. I've played Space Channel 5 and own a copy of the US Bust a Groove. Frequency and Amplitude fell into my hands based on the music along. These days, I have Elite Beat Agents and, naturally, Rock Band 1 & 2 with a bunch of music downloaded.

Meanwhile, I was a convert to the Wario Ware games early on. On my first trip to Japan, I snagged a copy of "Made in Wario" which I played the heck out of. Even my wife enjoyed playing those mini-games.

So when Rythym Heaven came around, it had a big "Jon must play" sign on it. To the top of the Gamefly Queue!

- First taste: Pbhtttt!

Very excited, I popped Rythym Heaven into the DS, fired it up, and launched into the first mini game. Not horrible, but it's the same action with little varition. Flick a rod in time with the music. Only got a Just OK rating though.

Second mini game, Glee Club. I saw Steven Totillo doing this on the MTV Multiplayer blog, this should be fun.

Tap, hold, and flick. Another Just OK rating.

I set it down for dinner - but am not amused.

- Second taste: Well, it's edible...

So far the graphics have been passible for a Wario Ware-ish game, the sound okay, but the game has felt uninspired and difficult for me. Possible a little on the long side too.

The next session had me in a slightly more peaceful state, so I sat down and passed the next game - filling robots with fuel - with a Just OK rating. The game has five ratings - Perfect, Superb, OK, Just OK and Try Again. I'm really not doing too good here.

The fourth game, Fan Club, had a tap-flick sequence that I never got the hang of. Three Try Again ratings later, the game let me progress to the next stage - a remix of the previous four levels.

Three more Try Agains and the game lets me move on. Move on in shame, that is.

- Third taste: It's okay if I hold my nose and chew.

So I get to sit down again and try it out. The third game is "Ping Pong" but really it's a game where you fill in the last beat - with a flick against the screen. And I can't get past the tutorial.

I try again and again and just can't seem to get past it. Until I look away from the screen. Suddenly, I have no problems with it at all.

Thus, the phrase "hold my nose and chew" comes to mind. The best way for me to play this game is to ignore the visual cues and rely on the audio alone. Which is contary to the core idea of a video game.

Unsuprisingly, this isn't the first time I've run into such an issue. Bust a Groove 2 and Space Channel 5 were not easy games for me. Parappa the Rapper never got past the demo for me. Even Elite Beat Agents hit a stalling point - although I hear that the Jamiroquai song is a tough one for many people.

And the Harmonix games kept the rhythm and visuals so closely tied together that I was able to get through without pain.

But the effort of playing Rhythm Heaven really left a bad taste in my mouth. The visual cues actually hampered my play and the idea of struggling through these stages in a continual state of failure has "Bad Idea" written all over it.

So the gutcheck to make here is - how much do you like rhythm/music games and how good are you at them. Then rent it if you think this might be your cup of tea.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and brush my teeth.

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