IGN Review of Rhythm Heaven
It's not surprising to find out that Rhythm Heaven has been produced by the same team responsible for unleashing Wario Ware: it's crazy, experimental, and it never takes itself seriously. It's also surprisingly robust and addictive as hell: though you're only providing three simple touch screen commands in Rhythm Heaven, the designers put everything it could into producing one of the most creative and original music-based games on the market.
To truly understand Rhythm Heaven, you really have to go back a bit in history: the game started out as a Japanese Game Boy Advance title called Rhythm Tengoku. The team, fresh off the Wario Ware franchise, approached the music genre in similar fashion as it did the action genre in Wario Ware: thinking completely out of the box. Instead of recreating games like Parappa the Rapper or Dance Dance Revolution where players tap the appropriate button when the symbols tell them to, the designers focused more on quick-fire rhythm-based situations: hit a baseball, pluck facial whiskers, and clap hands…all by watching the cues and pressing the button in time to the music.
In context, Rhythm Heaven is a brilliant DS continuation of the Game Boy Advance game, but since we didn't get the first game, the DS title will feel completely original. Instead of tapping a button along with the music, players instead tap or flick the stylus against the touch-screen in time to the beat using the visual and audio cues to know which to do and when. Just as Rhythm Tengoku kept things simple, Rhythm Heaven only requires those two input mechanisms in its 24 different rhythm challenges. And they're all just as completely off-the-wall as they were in the Game Boy Advance version. On the DS, you'll be flicking ping pong balls in a rally, taking photos of a fast-paced Grand Prix, and slicing vegetables as a dog ninja…all to the beat of the music. It's innovative and surprisingly addictive, even though you're really only doing two different stylus motions.
As fun as Rhythm Heaven is, it wouldn't be a great music game without great music. You're not going to get familiar licensed tracks in this DS title, but you're definitely going to hear some fun and original toe-tapping tunes. But the lyrics in this game are the absolute pits; whoever converted the Japanese-heavy vocals from the import version totally dropped the ball. You might want to strengthen up your songwriting skills if you're forced to fill up a song with a bunch of "Yeah, yeah, yeahs" and "Oh, oh, oh, oh nos." Who'd they get to localize this, Lenny Kravitz? Luckily there are only a handful of sung songs, and the majority of the tunes are purely instrumental and fun to listen to.
It's not difficult to plow through much of the game in a few hours; there are only six tiers of four different musical challenges, with each tier mashing up the four into a fifth "Remix" challenge of a completely new song. Reaching the end? Not super challenging. But scoring all the hidden unlockables? That's where the replay value comes into the experience. You'll only get a "medal" credit if you manage a "Superb" ranking, and the game has a ton of extras that only open up if you gain enough of the medals. Many of these extras are most likely failed mini-game experiments, like tapping on a touchtone phone, or sliding a business card around in a holder -- ideas that didn't quite make the cut in the single-player progression but still had enough creative spark to be included somewhere in the package. Additionally, the game builds up its replay value by randomly awarding players an opportunity to score a "Perfect" in a designated level. You only get three chances at it, and if you decide to skip the opportunity it will disappear for who knows how long.
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