Rhythm Heaven is a handheld rhythm game that has you tapping and flicking your stylus to catchy songs and fun animations.
Rhythm Heaven definitely has style. Each level is distinctly different, but the graphics are simple and artistic. The quirky and original design is very reminiscent of the WarioWare titles. The animations are inventive and often cute, which makes it interesting for spectators to lean over your shoulder, but rhythm games aren’t about the graphics, anyway.
With an original score written specifically for the game, the songs are catchy and distinctive, which is very important for a rhythm game. I found myself humming them in the car and at work. The cues for action on your part don’t always fit in perfectly with the song – an instance that comes to mind is in an early level, a pop singer’s cue for you to cheer is the phrase, “I suppose.” It felt awkward and forced. In such a quirky game, though, these faults are fairly easy to overlook. In general, the beats are pretty phresh. It isn’t torture to replay levels that you failed the first time around.
As an already rhythmically-challenged gamer, I got pretty frustrated sometimes. The practice they set up before each level is much needed, especially when the animations don’t quite match up with the beat. As someone who actually watches the notes hit the bar in Guitar Hero to know when to strum, this was difficult for me. They even have “flicking practice” at the beginning of the game, that you can re-visit at any time through the Café menu. It definitely takes practice to master the flicking motion, which can be frustrating when an entire level is based on flicks. The tapping parts are intuitive, and controls are precise, which is crucial for rhythm based gaming, but mastery requires lots of practice.
Each level is different enough that nothing gets repetitive. There are ten stages of five songs each (the fifth being a remix of the first four songs). However, the last four stages are just harder versions of earlier ones, which is a little disappointing. The songs are interesting and unique, with different gameplay than I’ve seen in any other rhythm game. The first stage has players doing everything from filling robots in a factory to being the third singer in an a cappella group. Later, the difficulty ramps up, with ping-pong, ninja dogs slicing veggies, and racetrack photography.
In some cases, clear direction is not given, and there wasn’t really a way to succeed the first play-through of a level. I had to rely on memorizing how the song went and when to do what, rather than gameplay being intuitive. In the earlier part of the game, if you fail a song three times, you are given the option to skip it. No such luck later on, and you’ll be forced to replay the same song over and over to get past the stage.
Fun! Even when I had to replay a song six or more times, I never became frustrated enough to quit. When you beat a tough level, it’s very rewarding. I stayed up into the early hours of the morning, trying just ONE more time to beat a level, or to get a slightly better rating.
Most of the characters in this game are animals, machinery, or genderless blobs. There is a young female pop star in one level that sings a love song, with a legion of monkeys as her fans. I felt that it was cute and silly rather than demeaning, as everything is done in adorable cartoons.
High. Fun to play through, and the songs stay stuck in your head so you’ll want to keep coming back.