WarioWare-esque mini-games plus crazy beats equals one wacky and addictive rhythm title.
Rhythm Heaven, known as Rhythm Tengoku Gold in Japan, is the latest formerly Japan-only Nintendo title to make its way stateside. Created by the same team responsible for Nintendo's popular WarioWare series, Rhythm Heaven is very much in the same vein, with the exception that all of the actions are now performed in concert with the beats in a song. Minor flaws aside, the game is extremely addictive and challenging.
Rhythm Heaven is comprised of a few different parts. Mini-games make up the bulk of the game, but as players both beat the main rhythm mini-games and earn medals and perfects on them, they will gain access to the café (for listening to music), rhythm toys, and endless rhythm games.
Playing Rhythm Heaven requires players to hold the DS book-style, similar to the Brain Age titles. Upon first booting the game, only a single mini-game is available for play, Built to Scale. In this mini-game, as with any exercise, players are given a short tutorial and practice session in which they can master the basic skills needed. As the music starts, players will see that they must perform a flicking motion on the DS touch screen in order to drive a bolt into two moving squares, each featuring a circular hole. Sounds easy, right? It turns out that it's not quite as easy as it seems. Because we so often play video games relying primarily on sight, when we must play predominantly on sound it makes the game much trickier.
Many of the games in Rhythm Heaven can be performed with your eyes closed (after you know the proper actions from playing the tutorial). In one particular challenge where you must fuel an assembly line of robots, I actually had to close my eyes in order to be successful. Every time I had played it prior, I missed the cue to start gassing up the robot. Perhaps it was just a distracting visual cue; regardless, it was a remarkably odd experience that drove me to play the game more and attempt to sync up my vision and hearing.
However, before I had figured out how to beat this mini-game, I was stuck in a frustrating position. Because games are unlocked one-at-a-time, I had no choice but to push on and figure out how to beat it. Eventually I noticed that the coffee cup in the bottom-right corner of the touch screen will sometimes blink when you get stuck, allowing you to skip the challenge. But what's the fun in that? A much better solution would've been to unlock games in sets: that way, players could have gotten their groove on elsewhere, and maybe after a few other successes, mustered up the ability to beat the problematic mini-game.
As previously suggested, Rhythm Heaven is controlled entirely with the touch screen. Every game involves players either tapping, flicking, or rubbing the touch screen. For those with an original DS model, fair warning that you might experience some flicking issues due to the seemingly less sensitive touch screen. Some of these problems are eliminated with a DS Lite (and I presume the DSi as well), but even still, because the controls are gesture-based, on occasion, your input will not be recognized properly. Such hiccups can cause you to lose a challenge or miss out on that perfect score you were pushing for.
Fortunately, even when the game is being frustratingly hard due to your own poor timing or a mishap with the controls, it's still extremely fun to play. Whether you are pushing to either beat a mini-game you are stuck on, or attempting to get a perfect on one you feel you have mastered, there is certain addictiveness to the gameplay that will keep you coming back. The wacky style, zany humor, and catchy tunes found in WarioWare all are present in Rhythm Heaven. These aspects make the game endearing and fun, and are arguably the best qualities of the title.
Those looking for an unconventional rhythm game or something close to the WarioWare series would do well to pick up Rhythm Heaven. Fair warning: the game is challenging, and at times you will want to throw your DS against the wall. Regardless, you will likely become addicted to the game's unique traits and simple-yet-fun gameplay.