Elite Beat Agents
Youíre having a bad day. The electricity went off while you were asleep last night, effectively disabling your alarm clock. In an attempt to rush through breakfast, you accidentally let the toast burn. You ran out of toilet paper at the worst possible time. After working an hour and a half of overtime, your boss fires you at the end of the day. When you arrived back at the parking lot, you discovered that your car has been stolen and that your cell phone had run out of battery life. When you walked down to the bus stop to catch a ride back home, you realized that you missed the last bus of the night by less than a minute. Now, after half an hour of walking toward home, you realize that itís begun to drizzle. As the rain turns your suit into waterlogged rags, you raise your face to the stormy heavens and scream:
But as just hope starts to fade from your mind, a brilliant light shines forth through the gloom. This glorious beacon isnít some form of divine intervention; however, it does come close. As the glaring light dies down, you can see three men walking towards you, each sporting some stylish black suits, funky hairstyles, and more charisma than you should probably shake a stick at. They are the Elite Beat Agents, a trio of mighty guardians whose soul purpose it to bring power, courage, love, and hope to the downtrodden victims of an uncaring world. Before you can even utter another word, the gentlemen turn on their sacred karaoke machine, grab their microphones, and use their mad dancing skills to rejuvenate your very soul. Once the song has ended, the almighty trio vanishes, leaving you with a feeling of unbridled joy and sheer willpower.
However, the work of the Elite Beat Agents is far harder than they make it seem. The group travels all over the world, answering the pleas of whoever is in dire need of help. Theyíll help a washed-up baseball superstar regain his former glory, a Kevin Smith wannabe get a box office smash, a weatherwoman get rid of a storm, and even reunite a little girl with her missing father. Regardless of whom theyíre helping, the trio always adheres to a strict guideline of how they perform their funky duties. Once the music starts up, a round panel will suddenly pop up on the DSís Touch Screen. Around it, a colored ring will shrink to the size of the panel. When the two are in perfect alignment, itís your cue to tap the panel and hopefully score some points. Some panels will require you to drag the stylus across the screen, while others appear at faster speeds and require some precise handling. Youíd better learn fast, too Ė if you tap offbeat or miss too many panels, the Agents will fail their mission and someoneís dreams could be tossed asunder.
Before a level begins, youíll have to browse around a gigantic globe in search of people to help. Once youíve made the chosen to help someone in need, youíll be granted a brief comic-styled cutscene depicting your targetís current dilemma. As panels start appearing onscreen, youíll notice that theyíve been numbered, a helpful feature when youíve got a screen full of colors and donít know what youíre supposed to tap next. In order to progress through the mission, youíll have to tap the buttons in numerical order and start building up point combos. At certain points throughout the level, the gameplay will halt and another cutscene will kick in. Depending on how highly youíve scored during the music segment, your targets may momentarily succeed or horribly fail in their endeavors. With that, the gameplay returns for another round, followed by another cutscene, and an eventual end. If your speed, timing, and accuracy are up to par with the difficulty settings, the Elite Beat Agents will complete their mission and youíll be graded accordingly.
You donít have to rely on just your skills, however. The game boasts a few multiplayer options for all the wannabe Agents out there. Since the game saves your actions from the Story Mode, you can compete against your own record. Thereís also head-to-head (or rather, DS-to-DS) versus competition that will involve two teams battling it out over a chosen song and the beats that accompany it. But if you prefer combining your skills, the Co-Op Mode allows you to take on portions of a song and complete it by tapping specifically colored panels while your friends target others. Everyone will get to duke it out in front of various levels, such as the Universal Idol, a battle of the Bands-esque guitar duel, and even an Iron Chef competition.
Itís not like the game tries to take itself seriously. Sure, there are serious themes involving a family in bereavement, career loss, and crushed dreams. But for the most part, the cutscenes feature zany characters and dialogue. Youíll watch in amazement as a squadron of fighter planes scrambles to dispel a thunderstorm, a taxi driver skimming across a lake, or the way a football jock grabs a sandwich and throws it into a childís hungry mouth. Thereís nothing quite as crazy as watching a story about a depressed baseball player suddenly shift into a fatal battle against a fire-breathing golem. All of these stories are portrayed with colorful comic styled-drawings, right down to the thought bubbles and worded sound effects. The Agents themselves donít look to shabby either; Despite the DSís graphical limiations, youíll still be treated to the vision of three men (and women, if you unlock them) dancing to the beat of your taps.
Thatís assuming, of course, that you can keep up with the songs featured on the game. Elite Beat Agents features an impressive soundtrack that youíll have to complete. Younger gamers will likely recognize music from Sum 41, Avril Lavigne, Destinyís Child, and Ashlee Simpson. For those of you with a few more years to your name, donít worry; the game also boasts some tracks from Queen, the Village People, Madonna, Earth Wind And Fire, David Bowie, and the Rolling Stones. All of the songs sound remarkably clear, especially if youíve got some headphones to use. Though no one will be completely satisfied with this lineup of pop culture classics, the musical lineup features enough diversity to keep us all entertained.
Thatís what Elite Beat Agents is truly about: a blend of entertainment and fun. Forget about epic RPGs that force you to endlessly level up your characters. Take a break from that puzzle game youíve been drooling over for the past four hours. Never mind the platformers, the action games, and anything else that you happen to have in your DS right now. Despite its crazy concept, this game is a force to be reckoned with. Itís got a zany cast of characters, witty dialogue, and three funky men with dance moves unlike anything youíve ever seen. The game requires near-perfect timing and stylus-handling skill to complete, with some incredibly addictive gameplay and a decent learning curve to balance it all out. If all else fails, the game allows you to jam out to some of Americaís most popular tunes. If youíre up for the challenge, this game can show how elite of a gamer you truly are.
Nine out of ten