After the physical exertion of Virtua Tennis 2009, and with the shame of my first-round exit still hanging over me like a dark cloud, it was a pleasure to sit down for a bit with Let’s Tap. As a huge Yuji Naka fan I was dying to find out how his new studio Prope’s first game would play, and as soon as I got my fingers on the little orange box I had my answer: it’s an absolute joy.
If you’re not familiar with Let’s Tap, it’s essentially five distinctive minigames that are all played without any button mashing or waggling. Instead, you set your Remote down on one of the lovely Let’s Tap branded boxes – I’m told the Western ones will be even sturdier than their Japanese counterparts – and tap the box with your fingers to make the action happen. It sounds a bizarre and very unpredictable control method, but after a few minutes it becomes clear it’s been polished to near-perfection.
I started out with Tap Runner, easily the most accessible of the five games on offer – you simply drum the box to run and tap it hard to jump. It’s very surprising how sensitive the controller is in terms of picking up your movements – if you tap with eight fingers you’ll find yourself jumping no end of times, so experts recommend using the tips of your index fingers. If you’re particularly good at tapping – like me – you can achieve a special speed dash that certainly puts some distance between you and your opponents.
There are so many elements of Tap Runner that make it enjoyable, from the simple pleasure of tapping to make your character sprint to the well-designed courses that offer plenty of chances for last minute overtaking. The delicacy needed to traverse the tightropes is fantastic, and timing your jumps over the hurdles right gives another speed boost, so there’s clearly plenty of skill required to master Tap Runner. As a demonstration of the control scheme it works perfectly, and comparisons to Sonic the Hedgehog are not far off the mark in terms of its simplicity, accessibility and the sheer amount of fun you’ll have playing it.
Next up I had a chance to try Rhythm Tap, which as you might guess is a music-based set of games where you tap the box to match the icons that scroll right to left – blue circles are gentle taps, green are medium and the orange ones are hard whacks. It’s a lot like Donkey Konga, only measuring the strength of your taps instead of the position. Although you could pass the song using strong beats all the way through, it won’t get you the high scores – I hit 92/94 notes and only managed a measly C rating!
The highlight of Rhythm Tap for me – apart from the thrill of drumming along to the infamously addictive Let’s Tap theme tune – is the way drum rolls work. For a big finish, they start off with gentle blue taps and work up to the strongest taps, and if you manage to match the strength your Wii Remote starts cheering for you! That stands out as one of the high points of my gaming year so far.
Of the other three minigames, the only one I got to try was Silent Blocks, a cross between Columns and Jenga that sees you tapping gently to remove coloured blocks from a stack. When three tiles of the same colour connect, they turn to bronze – connecting three bronze blocks gives a silver one, with the idea being to destroy enough blocks to create one made of solid gold. For my first try at the game I found it quite confusing, and despite thinking I was winning the whole time was beaten by the editor of N-Europe, to my disappointment. With a few more plays and a better grip of the rules, Silent Blocks looks like it might be a more sedate experience than Rhythm and Runner, and certainly a more cerebral one.
In Japan, Let's Tap was released alongside a WiiWare title named Let's Catch, which is essentially a back garden throw-and-catch game. There's been no official announcement on whether Let's Catch will make it to the West, but the word from Sega was "watch this space".
Sadly we ran out of time before I had chance to play Visualiser or Bubble Voyager, although I could quite happily have locked myself in the Sega building and played Let’s Tap all night. It’s a wonderful game with a rare quality that should hopefully make it stand out in the Wii’s crowded multiplayer minigame market. Its success will rely on getting people to have some “fingers-on” time with it, as it’s a real joy to play a game by tapping a box, and with many already bored of Wii controls it should be a refreshing change when it hits the West this summer.