Simplicity in game design is often a double-edged sword. On the positive side, the player is provided with a sleek and easy to understand interface. However, this often has an equally negative impact on the depth of the experience and what you’re left with is a quick 'pick up and play' variety of game. With Rhythm Heaven however, simplicity fuses with a surprising amount of content, providing a basic concept with tons of play. Get ready to get your tap on, because this is one DS title you won’t want to miss.
Created by the same deranged minds behind the best-selling WarioWare series, Rhythm Heaven is a compilation of short rhythm based mini-games. Each game has its own concept, and occasionally its own back-story. One game will have you fuelling up robots, while another has you controlling a simian cheer squad at a pop concert. Regardless of the setting, your job is to tap and flick your stylus on the touch screen in coordination with the beat and the action on the other screen. Simple as that may sound, you’ll soon find out how much variety this game contains. With the altering music and scenarios, you’ll never feel like you’re stuck in a repetitive rut.
Completing each game and unlocking the next will not always present a significant challenge, but the player is also tasked with mastering each one in order to earn a medal. This will take quite a bit of practice, and you’ll find yourself replaying each stage a number of times before getting it just right. Getting a perfect rating can be painstaking, but it is also very rewarding. Earned medals can be spent to unlock extras like rhythm toys and endless rhythm games. Between these extras and the core experience you’re assured a huge amount of value for your money.
Keeping with the theme of simplicity comes the game's visual presentation. The graphics by no means push the DS hardware to its limits, but it suits the quirky style of the game perfectly. Like the scenarios that will change with each game, the graphics also change depending on what mini-game you’re playing. Some feature basic 3D models, while others have a hand-drawn look to them. In a game like Rhythm Heaven, the key importance is on the gameplay, so even if you’re not fond of the visual style you likely won't feel any slack on your enjoyment.
One area that certainly doesn’t skimp on detail is the games audio portion. The quality of the music is superb, whether you’re listening with the DS speakers or keeping it to yourself with a set of headphones. Staying in line with the crazy amount of variety in the title, the music also changes drastically with each mini game. It’s all catchy, fun, and easy to get into. Some songs feature lyrics which have obviously been translated into English for release outside of Japan. Most will argue that the original voice-overs were superior, and perhaps that’s true. The new ones get the job done though, and if you've not played the Japanese version then it won't present a problem.
To further prove the games emphasis on music, Rhythm Heaven also includes an extra area to listen to unlocked tunes and even get guitar lessons. Strange as that may be, it feels right at home in this weird but wonderful package. If you’re feeling washed out on all of the taping and stylus swiping, this area provides a nice break to keep players interested.
Simplicity doesn’t come without cost however. A couple of small issues arise due to an oversimplified interface. For one thing, there is no restart option when playing a game. Instead you’ll have to quit to the menu, and re-enter the game again. Once or twice and this isn’t a bother, but do it several times after repeated mistakes and you’ll be wishing the short cut was added in. Another similar complaint is that every time you enter a game you’ll be automatically thrown into the appropriate tutorial. It can be skipped, but why not have an option to opt out of repeating the same lessons? Minor inconveniences, but noteworthy ones all the same.
Rhythm Heaven is the epitome of simple game design, yet it never feels half-hearted in any regard. It’s bound to raise some eyebrows due to its strange sense of humour and a bare bones presentation, but it still stands as one of the finest titles to grace the Nintendo DS. It’s packed full of content and will keep even the most experienced gamers playing for a good length of time due to its deep replay value. If you own a DS you owe it to yourself to try this amazing game. Heaven never sounded so sweet.