Joystiq Review: Rhythm Heaven

These days, it's impossible to talk about rhythm games without bringing up Guitar Hero and/or Rock Band. Nintendo's Rhythm Heaven, to use the nomenclature, could be described as Soccer Ball Bounce Hero, Love Potion Mixing Hero, Race Car Photography Hero, Lizard Mating Dance Hero (that's right) and about 50 other things. But it's not really about any of those things. By making you do all kinds of different stuff rhythmically, it becomes a game less about simulating any one thing and more about pure rhythm. The fact that it's incredibly adorable doesn't hurt.
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If you've played WarioWare, you can imagine the basic look and feel of Rhythm Heaven: a string of brief minigames presented in disparate, deliberately lo-fi styles, covering a wide variety of subjects, characters, and tasks. The WarioWare team is also behind Rhythm Heaven, as well as its GBA predecessor (which never made it outside of Japan), and it shows. Rhythm Heaven differs from WarioWare in that the minigames are longer (up to a couple of minutes) and all musical. You tap and "flick" the stylus to the beat of original music by Japanese pop producer Tsunku, in order to make your avatar volley ping-pong balls, for example, or to make one moai mimic the singing of another. Each minigame features a short tutorial to help you understand the task before jumping into the song. These minigames are all just practice, however, for the "remix" stages: every fifth task is a roundup of the previous four, all strung together with new graphics, to the tune of a new song.
The minigames are almost universally charming, featuring standouts like DJ School, in which you play a student DJ who stops and scratches a record in response to his teacher's commands of "Break, come on, ooh," and "scratch-o, hey." Karate Man, in which you tap and flick to punch and kick flying objects, is another favorite. Fan Club, in which you control a monkey who must clap for a pop star in unison with the other audience monkeys, will probably burn a permanent response to the phrase "I suppose" into your mind.

Strong performance in the minigames earns you medals, which unlock all kinds of stuff: endless rhythm minigames, "rhythm toys" in the form of ungraded minigames and various noisemakers, "guitar lessons" based on one of the guitar-based games, and more. In addition, as you play, the game will randomly challenge you to complete a minigame with a perfect score to earn a specific reward, like songs in the music player, lyric sheets, and even background reading about the characters in the games. The extras help motivate obsessive replaying of the games, although honestly, the game itself is motivation enough for obsessive replaying.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.