Imagine a rhythm game that scraps simple on-screen cues in favor of wacky animations and forces you to keep the timing by ear. Now pour a gallon of irresistible Japanese craziness and humor over the top and you’re beginning to understand Rhythm Heaven, a cult hit series from Nintendo. The latest entry is Rhythm Heaven Megamix, and like its older siblings it is a collection of mini-games all centered around the simple premise of keeping the pace or beat. Establishing and maintaining a good flow is the ultimate goal.
In the story, a strange kitten afro thing named Tibby falls from the heavens and needs your help to make it back. You help him by clearing a series of mini-games to eventually devise something to help him return to “Heaven World.” The games themselves are all rather simple and some have even been pulled right out of earlier titles in the series. After beating a mini-game in story mode, it unlocks each the game in a free play mode where you can it repeatedly.
Gameplay in most of the mini-games consists of simply hitting the A button at the appropriate times, although some are more complex than others. Generally this can be rather easy if you just listen for the timing of the percussion or snap or whichever sound effect is tied to the button press and play along with the music. And while that may sound like child’s play. this is easier said than done depending on which specific input the game wants.
Unlike in every other rhythm game I’ve played, Rhythm Heaven Megamix utilizes no on-screen cues to help make sure your timing is perfect. In fact there are some portions where you may find it helpful to close your eyes and focus on keeping the beat. What does happens on screen as you keep the beat varies from game to game. Sometimes you’ll be filling robots with fuel at a factory that builds them. Other times you’ll be moving a ninja to cut down arrows launched by his attackers.
In the colorful and diverse mini-games, the game injects a distinct sense of humor and lightness. It also has a keen sense of comedy and never takes itself too seriously, which makes it inviting and relaxing to play. Megamix possesses the sharp, colorful charm of a GameBoy Advance game. What it lacks in depth of game-play, it makes up for in variety.
Despite being fundamentally very similar, some games felt quite different from others. I was great at a tap dancing game but consistently did poorly in a midair badminton game, regardless of the fact they relied on the same mechanic. As you progress through the story you’ll encounter gates which are set up almost like boss enemies.
The very first of these gates presents a coin flipping game that I simply could not get the hang of. Just when it seemed like I’d be doomed to figure it out over the next hour, reprieve came from the game itself. I’d failed twice and one of the characters said something like “this game is for fun and we don’t want you to get fed up so just take a pass on this.” I’m sure that certain purists will not take kindly to this sort of handholding, but I definitely appreciated it.
To the point, the game has a wide margin for “good enough” on passing the various games. Unlike other rhythm games I’ve played, which require near perfect plays in order to progress (even on their equivalent easy settings), this game was very forgiving when it came to scoring. If you got most of the notes but missed a few here and there, you’ll get through fine. Sometimes it seemed like I could miss most of the notes and still move on.
Even if you get a low score, if at any point during the game you hit a streak or several notes consecutively, they’ll bump your score up just enough for you to pass most of the time. I thought these features would make the game great for younger or more short tempered players. Meanwhile, those purists I mentioned will have challenges and multiple difficulty levels of the boss gates to provide a bit more difficult. There’s also a ton of stuff to unlock, most notably the additional mini-games.
The game features a cool download and play mode which lets you run through some games with friends locally. Outside of the story mode, you have just a couple of areas of interest. As you play you earn coins that you can use to unlock additional games and a challenge mode remixes various games to freshen them up and give you a new experience.
You can also feed coins and turnips to a goat and level it up, but it was never clear to me why I would do it. I got it to level 8 and absolutely nothing happened, so maybe it’s just a good indication of how long you’ve been playing or something. All in all there’s little in the way of an appetizer or dessert here and the main course is mini-games, of which there are plenty.
Some of the games are more fun than others, but I find that the game overall fails to match the diversity of early WarioWare titles. Even so Rhythm Heaven Megamix provides a fun distraction from more serious games that require big time commitments. It’s segmented format makes it great for play in short bursts and a big pool of unlockables and challenges will continually beckon to fans that enjoy the button tapping, head-nodding style of the game.
Even if you typically don’t like cutesy, playful titles like these, you’re bound to find yourself dancing along to one tune or another. I recommend this to anyone who likes other “mini-game collection” games or music games.