• Rhythm Tengoku (Heaven) Review - Nintendo GBA

    Every now and then a game comes along thatís so simple in concept that itís a wonder it hasnít been thought of before. Indeed, when first picking up and playing Rhythm Tengoku (Paradise), itís so devastatingly simple and right that youíll wish someone had thought of it sooner. Made in Wario games are excellent fun. Rhythm action games are excellent fun. Idea: merge them both together for maximum awesomeness. Cha ching!

    Taking the mini-game style one step further with the addition of a rhythm component could have gone very wrong though. It would have been easy to end up with a repetitive collection that struggled to retain any sense of identity for each mini-game. However, Intelligent Systems have injected a heavy dose of style and you will smile excessively, especially on the first play through. This assumes you have any sort of natural rhythm Ė if you have not, then steer clear, because it will either do nothing for you, or worse cause frustration.

    The game firstly presents a beat-matching assessment Ė tap the A button in time with the beat and a graph will show you how much off-beat you are (early or late). This is also available at any later stage from the main menu. Once this is dispensed with, the action is laid out in columns of unlockable mini-games, all of which require a button to be pressed (or a combination of buttons) in time with (or syncopated to) the music, with visual clues from the on-screen action to help out; and what a superb collection of action it is. Clapping monkeys. Dancing monkeys. Ninjas swiping arrows out of the sky with a sword. Plucking facial hair off what look like onions. Exploding fireworks. Shooting ghosts. Punching stuff. Hitting a baseball in a green room suspended in space while an alien looks on. Watering plants. Incredulous and incredible!

    After completing a column successfully, the top game in the column combines a variety of the mini-games seen thus far into a mini-mix of game fragments and tunes, all joined together into one coherent whole. The mixes are a definite high point, seeing the familiar games set to a different backing track and often different speed, with success bringing a whole new level of elation. This is not to say that anyone a little beat-savvy will find anything too taxing here, but instead the joy comes from the insanely catchy tunes and the way progress is fed back to the player.

    Each game can be failed, passed or aced, with a pass opening up a new game and an ace awarding a medal. Feedback is constantly supplied in the form of visual or audio cues, so for example, when batting the baseball, if it is spot on the beat, it will fly straight out of the screen. If it is hit too early it will curve high and if too late, it will come out low on the screen. Or when dancing with monkeys, a sound like a finger-click indicates a perfect beat, or a softer noise indicates a slightly mistimed button press. The exact form the cue takes in each game varies, but the ingenuity always impresses.

    Some of the games take the sense of timing to new levels, perhaps hiding the on-screen action, leaving the player to rely solely on music, like the kung fu guy, or silencing the audio as well as hiding any visual aids, leaving only your tapping foot as the single weapon in your arsenal, like the cheeky ghost. After the first six mixes have been completed and after the credits roll, new versions of previous games become available that actually present more of a challenge, with rapidly changing tempos and rhythms. This is welcome because although the journey is sweet, itís over far too soon.

    The number of medals received (from doing well in each mini-game) determines how many extras are unlocked. The main unlockable extras include sound machine toys, some more arcade-orientated mini-games and a series of great drum lessons. Tapping out your own drum solo has never been simpler and is bizarrely satisfying on the little handheld. If you get the chance, try the game on the GameCubeís GBA Player, because it works just as well on the big screen and having the music that much louder is a bonus. Getting the medals at a leisurely pace is fairly straightforward, but occasionally, the chance to perform a perfect run under pressure is offered, with only two or three goes before the chance slips away again till after extended play. Completing these perfects opens up new songs and drum types, available from the main menu Ė pick a song, drum along to it and save your Iron Butterfly style drum solo to the game cartridge. Those drum lessons will come in handy! Gaining all the medals, perfects and associated unlockables goes some way to extending the lifespan, but more mini-games would have been a plus

    Not to be missed by anyone who's interested in rhythm action gaming, Rhythm Tengoku is a joyous experience, full of little touches that bring smiles and happiness, so much so that it might even convert those that donít even like videogames. An ambassador for fun video gaming.

    Score: 9/10

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