Miyamoto might not see the appeal in playing a game without holding a controller, but ex-Sega genius Yuji Naka can certainly think outside the box – or, more accurately, think on top of the box.
For his first game since leaving Sega five years ago, Naka has crafted a game played entirely by tapping a cardboard box. It’s an insane system if you think about it, but it’s best not to, or you’ll miss out on one of the Wii’s most enjoyable games.
Let’s Tap features five different games, ranging from the athletic Tap Runner to the sedate chill-out of Visualiser. Each uses the tap control system in an engaging and surprisingly accurate way, and it’s a marvel to see how sensitive the Wii Remote is to registering tiny taps and full thwacks. For those who are a little on the heavy-handed side, there is an adjustable sensitivity option, a welcome addition if you find yourself struggling to control any of the games.
Somewhat oddly for a family-friendly party game, Let’s Tap draws many of its aesthetic inspirations from classic Sega shooter Rez, with its wireframe structures and graphical overlays dotted throughout the game’s five modes. In many ways, the game’s style sits at odds with its desire to be an acceptable multiplayer title, eschewing as it does the big-heads and cutesy graphics of your typical Wii party game (although its companion piece Let’s Catch is full of them!) Although not the most stunning graphics you’ll see on the Wii this year, Let’s Tap is undeniably a stylish and graphically innovative title that certainly stands out in the Wii’s overcrowded family market. A special mention must also go to its soundtrack, not just for featuring some unbearably catchy tunes in the Rhythm Tap section but also for creating some very soothing soundscapes in the Visualiser and Silent Blocks modes that certainly help to lower the old blood pressure.
The first game you’ll likely want to try it out is the flagship Tap Runner, essentially a simplistic racing platformer that sees you drum the box to build speed and tap it harder to launch your character into a jump. If you manage to maintain the right rhythm you’ll activate a dash, and you can even alter the strength of your tap to control the angle of your jump for clearing the low hurdles or the high dangers. It’s an undeniably enjoyable mix of Track and Field and Sonic the Hedgehog, with each stage easily accessible for beginners whilst giving the more serious players a challenge with the tough AI. If you’re playing with friends it’s a frantic race, with plenty of drama and nail-biting moments. It’s a shame there’s only sixteen short courses: with more stages and championship options this would have been worthy of a solo release, but as it stands it’s still likely to be your go-to game when playing with friends.
Rhythm Tap, the second game on the list, has been compared to Donkey Konga countless times, only with addictively sugary J-pop replacing licensed Western songs. As with Tap Runner, you’ll need control over the strengths of your taps to master this mode, with blue, green and red circles indicating increasingly powerful hits on the box, and although it’s perfectly possible to pass each song using the same strength throughout you’ll miss out on the scores necessary to unlock the extra content. By far the best feature of Rhythm Tap is when your Wii Remote cheers when you complete a drum roll perfectly: sheer gaming bliss and a classic Sega moment.
The last of the frantic tap games is Bubble Voyager, which resembles a cross between the Flash game Helicopter and a sedate shooter, with your cutesy helmeted character firing rockets at asteroids and collecting glowing stars before landing on a refuelling pad. It’s a thousand game archetypes rolled into one but the character’s control never seems quite as satisfying as the other games, although the multiplayer battle arena is a pleasingly punchy addition that again draws from classic games Space War and Asteroids.
After all that tiring tapping, it’s time to relax with Silent Blocks, a puzzle mode best described as a colourful Jenga derivative but that turns out to be one of the most entertaining games in Let’s Tap. There’s an “Unlimited” mode that challenges you and as many friends as you can muster to dismantle the tower and retrieve the star trophy on top, but where the game really excels is its Alchemist mode, which sees you combining three coloured blocks to create gems, then combining the gems for stronger gems. It sounds odd and it certainly takes some practice to get your head around the rules, but seeing the blocks disappear as you combo gem after gem is highly satisfying, and even when the tower topples after ten minutes of timid tapping you’ll come back for the classic “just one more go”. There’s also an Alchemist Race mode for you to compete against your friends, although it’s probably more enjoyable taking it as a sedate solo experience.
If your blood pressure is still a little high after seeing your blocks fall over, you can head into Let’s Tap’s final mode, the bizarre Visualiser. Essentially five different “visual toys”, here your taps summon fireworks, fish, paint and more, with various effects created by the rhythm and strength of your taps, letting you choreograph your own fireworks display or draw donuts and dandelions. It’s a curiosity piece and nothing more really, and even though trying out various tap combinations in Fireworks mode is satisfying there’s nothing here that will provide anything other than an hour or so of experimentation.
Just when you think you’ve seen all the control schemes the Wii Remote’s capable of, along come Prope and their little cardboard boxes and shake up the Wii party game landscape. Let’s Tap isn’t the most comprehensive party package on Wii – seeing everything will take no more than four or five hours, even less if you've downloaded Let's Catch! – but the versatile and responsive controls are the star of the show, giving these simplistic minigames much-needed longevity. Tap Runner, Rhythm Tap and Silent Blocks are worth the price of admission alone, but whether you're after some frantic fun or a soothing chill-out you'll find something to enjoy in Let's Tap.