We at Nintendo Life have enjoyed the various Gabrielle's Ghostly Groove games, but so far we've tended to like them more for their charm and visual appeal than for their gameplay or for anything they do particularly well. This is a trend that goes back to the WiiWare incarnation of the series, Gabrielle's Ghostly Groove: Monster Mix, and it's not something that changed for its 3DS retail sequel, Gabrielle's Ghostly Groove 3D.
They're games that we enjoyed, but not ones that we could bring ourselves to whole-heartedly recommend. While the visual style was a huge plus, everything else just feels mediocre. Charming, but mediocre.
That trend continues with Gabrielle's Ghostly Groove Mini. It's a deliberately scaled back slice of the 3DS title, but in this case it's scaled back so far that it feels more like a skimpy demo than it does a game. Oh, and it's a demo you have to pay for, so there's that.
While we may not have been thrilled with the ancillary features of Gabrielle's Ghostly Groove — such as an opportunity to dress Gabrielle up like a sort of undead Mii, or the extended text-only comedy routines between our heroine and some creatures of the night — we did at least admire these attempts at spicing up its own formula. We may not have come away very impressed by them, and they may have seemed a lot like simple filler meant to justify the release of a retail title, but it was at least something.
Here, in Gabrielle's Ghostly Groove Mini, there doesn't seem to have been any effort made on behalf of the developers at all. It's a menu from which you choose one of four songs — each of which will last for around a minute, so feel free to do the math yourself — and then tap, slide and flick your way through the rhythm prompts.
Even if these were great songs with very exciting tap / slide / flick sequences that would be a problem, because aside from topping the local leaderboard — which allows only three save slots, meaning your competition will always be extremely limited — there's no reason whatsoever to return to the game, and you can see everything in around 10 minutes... if you take your time.
The songs, however, aren't particularly good (with the exception of the fourth, which is a tiny fragment of a very famous classical piece...we'd tell you what it is, but since that's the closest thing this game has to a spoiler we'll keep quiet) and the rhythm aspect of the game isn't challenging at all. Each song has three difficulty settings, which certainly sounds nice, but when we scored a PERFECT rating on the hardest song at "Impossible" difficulty our first time through, it became pretty clear that acing these tunes isn't much of an accomplishment.
Little icons will appear on the top screen that let you know what to do, and there's an animation of Gabrielle dancing with some monsters from the public domain, if you're into that sort of thing. You'll tap, slide and flick as prompted, and that's about all you'll do. In each song a Thriller Time segment will be triggered, and you'll be asked to...tap, slide and flick. So much for variety. But still...Thriller Time!
Your score is based on how well you did reacting to the prompts, with combo and perfect multipliers tossed in for good measure. The song ends after just 60 seconds or so, you see your name appear on an empty leaderboard, and you're kicked back to the menu to choose another, or to sit quietly and think about what you've done.
There's no dialogue and no story to be found, which isn't a problem in itself, but there's barely any presentation either. You tap the song you want, the level starts, you age one minute, the level ends. Repeat, if you must.
With nothing else to the game, and no real reason to recommend the measly four rhythm exercises themselves, we find it necessary to declare Gabrielle's Ghostly Groove Mini dead on arrival.
Gabrille's Ghostly Groove Mini takes the idea of a streamlining to an almost satirical extent. With a measly four songs — which are each about one minute long — and no sense of challenge whatsoever, it's hard to imagine who, exactly, this release is targeting. Of course the art style, what little you get to see of it anyway, is still very charming and the simple touch screen controls work well enough. As such it's not a bad game so much as it is a game that doesn't give you any reason to play it.