Although the extremely accessible Wii Music took center stage at Nintendo's press event and has garnered a near-constant flow of virtual musicians eager to try their hand at classic melodies, Nintendo also has another rhythm game on display that is just as addictive. Rhythm Heaven, created by the developers of the WarioWare franchise, mixes the frantic pace of minigames with a deep and rewarding music experience. We went hands-on with three of the minigames today and now cannot wait until this hits stores sometime later this year.
Rhythm Heaven is actually the second game in the series, though the Game Boy Advance original never made it out of the Japan. The Nintendo DS version takes the same endearing qualities from the original, but replaces the button pushes with stylus controls. Given that most of the minigames require you to simply touch the screen to activate your moves, the game is able to keep the pick-up-and-play nature intact.
The first minigame had us operate a catapult as square blocks rolled in front. Following the beat of the squares' movements, you need to shoot a log through them when they reach the middle of the screen. This may sound like a pretty basic, potentially even boring concept, but the catchy beat and sheer challenge of perfectly lining up your shots makes this extremely engrossing. As you progress later into the mode, the blocks vary their speed, and eventually the screen goes completely black except for a small ray of light in the middle. Forcing you to play almost blind may seem cruel, but if you're following the beat properly, you can actually play the game with your eyes closed. In fact, it's often advisable to close your eyes because the visuals can only distract you from your goal to make music.
The other two minigames were just as addictive. One has you using a fuel pump in a robot factory. After the robots are assembled (built to the same catchy beat every time), you have to fill them up with energy. Oil is poured into the robot using a beat as well, and you use sound cues to make sure that you input the perfect amount of gas. The last minigame has you playing as a singer in a row of three people. You play follow-the-leader in this mode. You sing whenever you take the stylus off the screen, so you just have to follow the beat and make sure that you don't ruin the concert. This gets difficult when everyone sings at the same time, so we had to carefully follow the music cues (instead of the simple graphics) to achieve victory.
Though Rhythm Heaven can be extremely difficult, it's so darn charming that it's hard to get upset with it. Fans of rhythm games will definitely want to keep an eye on this game. It will appear on the Nintendo DS sometime this fall.