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Rhythm Heaven

This past week Nintendo released their latest iteration of the massively popular DS handheld – the DSi – and along with it came a quaint selection of downloadable games, as well as one extremely quirky music title. Rhythm Heaven is one part WarioWare, one part Elite Beat Agents, and everything you love Nintendo for.

screenshot

Rhythm Heaven, for all intents and purposes, is a mini-game compilation. There’s no story, no play board. You’re simply presented with a menu of minis, but much like WarioWare, the game feels like a virtual toy box you’ll love coming back to again and again.

As its name implies, Rhythm Heaven is all about…well, rhythm. The mini-games are short – about one or two minutes in length each – and you’ll be using the touch screen for everything. The mechanics are simple; you’ll tap, flick, hold and scratch. However, each mini-game is incredibly unique and clever, and there’s not a single dud in the bunch.

In order to play Rhythm Heaven, you’ll need to hold the DS sideways (book style), and upon first loading up the game, you’ll be tutored on the finer points of flicking. Once you’ve nailed the basics, you’ll be introduced to the menu system and café. Mini-games are selected by tapping on game buttons, and each game provides you with instruction on how to play. Most times, however, you won’t really get a true feel for what you need to do in a particular mini-game until you actually get in there and play it firsthand. It’s this touchy-feely element of Rhythm Heaven that really helps to make it such a charming experience.

Most of the minis are fairly easy to grasp in concept, but from the very first selection – Built to Scale – it’s apparent you will be challenged each step of the way. Though many of the mini-games seem impossibly difficult when you first attempt to take them on, it’s surprising how quick and easy they are to master.

As an example of some of the games on offer here, let me start with my personal favorites: Glee Club is a mini in which you’ll be required to hold your stylus to the touch screen, releasing only when it’s time for your character to sing. You’ll be singing to a light-jazz tune, and the idea is simply to follow along with the other two singers in your club. Periodically the conductor will cue you by saying, “All together now,” in which case you’ll have to flick the stylus to execute a quick unison.

screenshot

Another really great mini is the Crop Stomp. In this one, you play as a farmer who’s harvesting his beets. You’ll need to tap on the screen when coming upon a beet to launch it into the air, and then flick on the screen to hit the beet into a basket on the farmer’s back. Of course, moles are hanging out in the garden as well, and these little critters require quicker reflexes in order to lob them away from your precious produce.

Though you’re using only a handful of mechanics throughout the entire experience, each mini-game feels completely new and fresh. You’ll do everything from playing ping pong, to creating love potions in the Love Lab. Even ninjas (and dog ninjas) pop up in Rhythm Heaven, and from start to finish, the game is a total blast.

The controls are fun, and the mini-games are incredibly rewarding, but there were occasions when the flicking input didn’t seem to register properly. Certain minis require precise flicks, and having your inputs misread can be especially troublesome when you’re trying to get a perfect score.

There are basically five ratings for mini-games: Try Again, Okay, Just Okay, Superb and Perfect. Rating Okay and Just Okay will unlock the next mini-game; Superb earns you a gold medal, which goes toward unlocking Endless Games, Rhythm Toys and Guitars Lessons in the medals section; and getting a Perfect unlocks trinkets (songs and stories) in the café. Perfect challenges are randomly offered, and you’ll be given three tries to get it right.

The medals section alone has tons of great stuff to keep you coming back. Some of the unlockables are little more than simple toys, á la what you’d find in WarioWare Touched!, while others offer an endless challenge that is as interesting and enjoyable as any of the main games. Just when you think you’ve seen everything there is to see in Rhythm Heaven, you’ll discover more challenging versions of earlier minis. The title is jam-packed with goodness.

screenshot

And that carries over to Rhythm Heaven’s production values as well. If you’ve played any of the games from the WarioWare series, you’ll definitely see many similarities in the visuals here. Rhythm Heaven has a simple yet wonderfully endearing art style that hooks you right from the start. The touch screen is perhaps a bit under-utilized, in that it’s usually completely blank, sans a smiley face when you touch it. But truly, the entire concept is just so fun and easy on the eyes, it’s impossible to be overly critical of the visuals on offer here.

Of course, the sound quality is excellent as well. The light-hearted collection of tunes works great alongside the action of each mini-game, and the sound design is impressive and satisfying. There are a ton of great, punchy sounds that give the game a wonderful arcade quality. Honestly, the whole thing is a joyous affair.

Though Rhythm Heaven doesn’t utilize the specific advantages of the new DSi hardware, it’s still a great game to help launch the system in style. It speaks to so many things fans love about Nintendo and their products. The game shows off both the simplicity and complexity of DS, but more importantly, Rhythm Heaven is an insanely good time. The flicking mechanic can be a tad finicky, but it’s nothing a bit of practice and finesse can’t overcome. That single issue aside, this is some of the most fun we’ve had on the system in quite a long while, and Rhythm Heaven is easily an early contender for DS Game of the Year.This past week Nintendo released their latest iteration of the massively popular DS handheld – the DSi – and along with it came a quaint selection of downloadable games, as well as one extremely quirky music title. Rhythm Heaven is one part WarioWare, one part Elite Beat Agents, and everything you love Nintendo for.

Rhythm Heaven, for all intents and purposes, is a mini-game compilation. There’s no story, no play board. You’re simply presented with a menu of minis, but much like WarioWare, the game feels like a virtual toy box you’ll love coming back to again and again.

As its name implies, Rhythm Heaven is all about…well, rhythm. The mini-games are short – about one or two minutes in length each – and you’ll be using the touch screen for everything. The mechanics are simple; you’ll tap, flick, hold and scratch. However, each mini-game is incredibly unique and clever, and there’s not a single dud in the bunch.

screenshot

In order to play Rhythm Heaven, you’ll need to hold the DS sideways (book style), and upon first loading up the game, you’ll be tutored on the finer points of flicking. Once you’ve nailed the basics, you’ll be introduced to the menu system and café. Mini-games are selected by tapping on game buttons, and each game provides you with instruction on how to play. Most times, however, you won’t really get a true feel for what you need to do in a particular mini-game until you actually get in there and play it firsthand. It’s this touchy-feely element of Rhythm Heaven that really helps to make it such a charming experience.

Most of the minis are fairly easy to grasp in concept, but from the very first selection – Built to Scale – it’s apparent you will be challenged each step of the way. Though many of the mini-games seem impossibly difficult when you first attempt to take them on, it’s surprising how quick and easy they are to master.

As an example of some of the games on offer here, let me start with my personal favorites: Glee Club is a mini in which you’ll be required to hold your stylus to the touch screen, releasing only when it’s time for your character to sing. You’ll be singing to a light-jazz tune, and the idea is simply to follow along with the other two singers in your club. Periodically the conductor will cue you by saying, “All together now,” in which case you’ll have to flick the stylus to execute a quick unison.

Another really great mini is the Crop Stomp. In this one, you play as a farmer who’s harvesting his beets. You’ll need to tap on the screen when coming upon a beet to launch it into the air, and then flick on the screen to hit the beet into a basket on the farmer’s back. Of course, moles are hanging out in the garden as well, and these little critters require quicker reflexes in order to lob them away from your precious produce.

Though you’re using only a handful of mechanics throughout the entire experience, each mini-game feels completely new and fresh. You’ll do everything from playing ping pong, to creating love potions in the Love Lab. Even ninjas (and dog ninjas) pop up in Rhythm Heaven, and from start to finish, the game is a total blast.

screenshot

The controls are fun, and the mini-games are incredibly rewarding, but there were occasions when the flicking input didn’t seem to register properly. Certain minis require precise flicks, and having your inputs misread can be especially troublesome when you’re trying to get a perfect score.

There are basically five ratings for mini-games: Try Again, Okay, Just Okay, Superb and Perfect. Rating Okay and Just Okay will unlock the next mini-game; Superb earns you a gold medal, which goes toward unlocking Endless Games, Rhythm Toys and Guitars Lessons in the medals section; and getting a Perfect unlocks trinkets (songs and stories) in the café. Perfect challenges are randomly offered, and you’ll be given three tries to get it right.

The medals section alone has tons of great stuff to keep you coming back. Some of the unlockables are little more than simple toys, á la what you’d find in WarioWare Touched!, while others offer an endless challenge that is as interesting and enjoyable as any of the main games. Just when you think you’ve seen everything there is to see in Rhythm Heaven, you’ll discover more challenging versions of earlier minis. The title is jam-packed with goodness.

And that carries over to Rhythm Heaven’s production values as well. If you’ve played any of the games from the WarioWare series, you’ll definitely see many similarities in the visuals here. Rhythm Heaven has a simple yet wonderfully endearing art style that hooks you right from the start. The touch screen is perhaps a bit under-utilized, in that it’s usually completely blank, sans a smiley face when you touch it. But truly, the entire concept is just so fun and easy on the eyes, it’s impossible to be overly critical of the visuals on offer here.

Of course, the sound quality is excellent as well. The light-hearted collection of tunes works great alongside the action of each mini-game, and the sound design is impressive and satisfying. There are a ton of great, punchy sounds that give the game a wonderful arcade quality. Honestly, the whole thing is a joyous affair.

Though Rhythm Heaven doesn’t utilize the specific advantages of the new DSi hardware, it’s still a great game to help launch the system in style. It speaks to so many things fans love about Nintendo and their products. The game shows off both the simplicity and complexity of DS, but more importantly, Rhythm Heaven is an insanely good time. The flicking mechanic can be a tad finicky, but it’s nothing a bit of practice and finesse can’t overcome. That single issue aside, this is some of the most fun we’ve had on the system in quite a long while, and Rhythm Heaven is easily an early contender for DS Game of the Year.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in August 2008.

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