Over the past few years, the DSiWare download service has seen some incredibly strange games with bizarre plots and titles. Ah! Heaven is no exception to this. Simply put, this a vertically scrolling platformer that has you taking control of a spiky haired, sunglasses wearing, nameless soul who just wants to ascend to the afterlife. The unfortunate news is that’s about as interesting as this package gets.
Each stage begins on the ground, with your goal being to continuously advance upwards towards the gates of heaven. There are an assortment of enemies and level hazards that will stand in your way and attempt to hinder your progress, but overall the concept is straightforward. The gameplay is incredibly simple and very easy to master, essentially playing like a version of Ice Climber that actually controls well.
As you climb to the summit of each level, you will be able to collect flowers that allow you to double jump, orbs that increase your health, and gold coins. While the first two collectables are self-explanatory, the presence of gold coins in the game is a bit more complex. Rather than having an actual scoring system, the game records the number of coins that you collect in each level as well as the amount of time it took you to complete. The coins cannot be spent on anything in game, and there’s no real motivation to collect them unless you’re a completionist seeking the best possible score. The coins’ presence here feels like an afterthought intended solely to extend the longevity of of the game for players who insist on collecting them, rather than a necessary mechanic.
There are 24 levels to play through that span across six chapters, themed after different regions of the world. While 24 levels may seem like a decent amount, the short length and low difficulty of each will ensure that most gamers will be able to play through the entire game in just over an hour. The levels don’t change at all each time you play them, so the only reason anyone would want to repeat a level is to attempt to finish it faster or collect more coins. Beyond that though, Ah! Heaven just isn’t challenging or entertaining enough to revisit.
As the game spans vertically across both DSi screens, the console’s touchscreen controls are not used at all. Instead, everything is controlled very easily, with the D-Pad used for movement and the A button to jump. You may experience the occasional hiccup in movement, such as sliding off of a non-slick platform rather than landing squarely on it, but beyond that the controls are tight.
Whether the stage takes place in China or France, the different backgrounds in each level match the chapter thematically and are expressed in painterly images with a hand-drawn quality to them. The backgrounds may be attractive, but the unfortunate truth is that there are only two different images for each chapter, so they are constantly being repeated. There is also only one song present in each level that replays itself endlessly. In a game divided specifically into chapters themed after different regions of the world, it would have been perfect to have a bit of variety in the music based on where the stage is located.
Ah! Heaven isn’t a bad game, but its simplicity tends to hinder the overall quality. It’s very short, easy – save for a few dicey jumps – and holds little replay value. If it were a longer game or if there was a bit more variety in the provided gameplay, then this one would definitely be worth playing. As it is though, it’s difficult to recommend a game that is this far from heavenly.