Have you ever wondered what would happen if back in 1995, the developers behind Command & Conquer were to integrate Frank Keplacki's industrial funk soundtrack in its actual gameplay mechanic? Developer Acquire ran with that possibly strange train of thought, with the result being an oddity of a game called Orgarhythm.
In all seriousness, it's not that hard to explain Orgarhythm's gameplay, despite its unique look and genre fusion. You just have to assign commands to your tribal foot soldiers to protect your always-grooving God of Light avatar from harm via touch-screen buttons. After picking the commands, you then drag them on to the screen to position your units to attack oncoming monsters.
The action takes place from a top-down perspective, like a real-time strategy game. However, there's not much in the way of extreme micromanaging, like in Starcraft or the aforementioned Command & Conquer games. You just have to use your elemental-themed minions against enemies with the opposite element so that they don't get hurt bad (blue against red, red against yellow, and yellow against blue).
You can also choose different types of units to deploy. The standard melee troops will rush and attack enemies up close, depending on where you send them, while the archers will hit enemies hiding behind barricades and high-rise platforms. The catapult units take a while to volley rocks, but they deal huge damage.
Your God of Light can also cast spells if there's some meter in his support gauge; it increases for each friendly and enemy unit that dies. His repertoire includes buffing the defence and attack strength of his followers, a healing spell, and a slow spell to render enemies in a temporary molasses-like state. If the gauge is maxed out, you can cast down a light-of-judgment spell that heals allies and kills enemies with bright lightning.
While this sounds like your God is well armed, the real challenge is to take into account all of the action onscreen, while tapping commands in accordance to the beat of the background music. If you follow the rhythm, you'll buff up your units, and they can take and dish out more than usual. One visual cue to help you out is a rhythm wave that pulses on the centre of the screen and gets bigger if you time your taps just right.
Furthermore, tapping the commands consecutively in a row (tap-tap-tap), instead of pausing after each input (tap-pause-tap-pause-tap), will get you a bigger unit and buff bonus. Fail to follow the beat, and your army gets miniscule and weak.
In practice, this takes some time to get used to. While the first two stages on the single-player mode were easy for us to get into the groove of, we had a bit of trouble on the fourth stage, since its background music had a much faster tempo than usual. Luckily, the game's AI makes sure that enemies don't bum-rush you as quickly as other units in other real-time strategy games, giving you enough time to get into the rhythm, before issuing commands. Still, players can get overwhelmed with bad guys if they're not paying attention.
Each of the four levels we played had their own end-of-level bosses. Using our quick rhythm skills and unit deployment, we bested a giant stone monolith that spits out rocks, a ziggurat with three different-coloured dragon heads corresponding to an element, and a stone horse demon-thing that's quick on its feet and charges at you during intervals.
At this point, Orgarhythm is a weird creature of a title that warrants play--the closest comparison would be the Patapon series on the PSP. It's hard to say whether it surpasses the aforementioned series on the gameplay front, but it's got enough of a unique aesthetic tribal flavour. Plus, it's got ad hoc co-op and competitive play if you can get a buddy along for the beat-inducing ride.
Orgarhythm is out right now in Japan and in Asia regions; the latter version is in English.