Rhythm Heaven Fever Review

Rhythm Heaven Fever (Wii)
Developer: Nintendo, TNX
Publisher: Nintendo

Using your Wii controller to conduct bizarre sequences with straightforward, cadenced button taps, Rhythm Heaven Fever requires players to “keep the beat” — a focus few other games of the genre emphasize. It utilizes two buttons the entire game, yet it manages to craft consistently quirky and addictive animated portraits — a wrestler being interviewed, a samurai fighting off demons, a factory that screws on robot heads, to name a few — that manipulate the simple mechanics ever-so-slightly to ensure no two games are identical. This minimalist approach to game design can prove repetitive, as you rhythmically tap the A button for hours, but the game’s endearing art direction and wacky tunes ensure a memorable ride through the latest Rhythm Heaven entry.

Each mini game starts with a brief tutorial. During this time you learn the correct timing for your button presses. Because notes can be represented by pigs in swivel chairs, rolling seals, or other strange cues, these segments are vital to understanding how each game plays. The tutorials do negatively affect the pacing, and having to skip them on replay proves mildly intrusive, but without them these games would be unfathomably jarring.

Now that you know when to press A or A and B together, the mini-games continue to include new wrinkles. The rhythm increases and fluctuates, forcing you to maintain the tempo, while also adjusting your taps to the influx of beats. These games also try to throw off your rhythm by obscuring your vision of helpful visual cues. In ‘Air Rally,’ a game that has two cats piloting their own small planes while playing badminton, clouds will appear, thus concealing the birdie’s location. Distractions like these can easily throw you off rhythm, making it all the more rewarding as you perfectly sync up your rallies with the beat.

In some ways, even these standalone games are practice, preparing you for the Remix stages. Remixes splice the previous four games together with minor changes of appearance to create a theme. They increase the difficulty, feature a catchy new song, and rapidly switch from the different games at breakneck speeds. Needless to say, maintaining rhythm during remixes can be especially difficult, but these segments are also highlights. You feel like you are playing a rhythm-based WarioWare title (which is not surprising, considering the same team made Rhythm Heaven Fever).

The game’s frequent distractions would be far too irritating if not for two subtle design decisions. Because you are tapping A for every beat (the B button is always used in conjunction with the A button), maintaining rhythm is not super difficult. By utilizing so few buttons, the game requires only the standard Wii remote, thus freeing up your other appendage and allowing for a personal metronome to help synchronize your button presses and maintain rhythm. Keeping up with Rhythm Heaven Fever can be occasionally frustrating, but these two choices make it easier to work through the more difficult games.

Simultaneously, those minimalist decisions lead to some inherit limitations. While no two games are identical, many are alike, with only one minor change to separate it from its brethren. This can make playing Rhythm Heaven Fever for an extended period of time become a mind-numbing experience in repetition. However, its hyper-Japanese style attempts to combat these issues by creating hypnotically weird scenarios, like a Congo line of hopping shrimp, and eccentric yet oddly catchy music. This sense of humor pervades the entire game in a truly infectious way. And when you groove with the game flawlessly, you feel like a part of the music. This evokes a completely different feeling than other rhythm games, as you feel connected to outlandish imagery— like an actor in a musical. As you conduct a flamingo stepping in line with dozens of others, perfectly syncopating your beats with the rhythm, the limitations vanish.

Medals are awarded for exceptional performances, which unlock mostly trivial rhythm toys, uneven endless games, and even some games from previous iterations. A two-player mode is included, but it mostly repurposes games from single player. You can also achieve perfect medals for each of the games, but the option randomly appears for a random game, meaning you cannot play one game repeatedly until you eventually perfect it. This system is ruthlessly difficult, and because you only get three tries for a perfect, it requires mastery of each and every game.

Extended play sessions diminish Rhythm Heaven Fever’s ostentatious qualities as its straightforward mechanics become more repetitive than fun. But the mechanics are so elegantly accessible, allowing for considerable difficulty that rarely becomes  frustrating and often becomes mesmerizing. What is more impressive though, is that the people behind Rhythm Heaven can still find new ways to exploit its extremely limited conceit to provide another fun-as-ever rhythm game.

Advertisements
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: