One of the games on my list to play this year is Rhythm Heaven Fever for the Nintendo Wii. Having enjoyed playing the previous Rhythm Heaven game for the DS, I was looking forward to seeing what the Wii version had to offer. Enjoyable gameplay and unique level designs are just a couple of thoughts that come to mind when I think back to when I played the DS version of the game. Unfortunately the Wii version of the game did not live up to my expectations and in some ways the game was even more disappointing considering the development team has had several years to improve it since the DS version arrived some time ago. Yet not all is lost as Rhythm Heaven Fever is enjoyable in small chunks.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Rhythm Heaven Fever is a collection of mini-games (reportedly over 50) where the object is to maintain the right rhythm by pressing and/or holding down the appropriate buttons at the correct time, specifically the “A” button or both the “A” and “B” buttons. Prior to each mini-game, the objective is explained to you through a tutorial where you can practice and get a good feel for what you are supposed to be doing. After you have been put through your paces with the games tutorial, you are ready to jump into a game.
The premise of the game is very simple. Once you have completed a game, and achieved the minimum score, you are ready to proceed to the next mini-game. If you complete a mini-game with a high ranking such as a “Superb” you receive a medal and unlock other features like the “cafe” where you can listen to music from the game. If you do poorly in your given game then you cannot proceed and are forced to retry the game again. A level consists of several mini-games with the final game of each level consisting of a “Remix” of all the previous mini-games in that level rolled into one.
The mini-games themselves are wacky, random and fun. That is if you manage to keep the right rhythm. For example, the first mini-game involves you pressing the “A” button at the right time in order to drive a golf ball into a hole on an island in the distance. Sounds simple enough except the balls are not sitting stationary on a pin but instead are being intermittently tossed to you by a cute little monkey or thrown at high speeds by a mandrill (a primate related to a baboon). This creature also cues you when to swing with grunts and cries. If you are successful in hitting the ball at the right time, the ball will go straight into the hole on the island. If you are not successful and you happen to miss a ball thrown by the mandrill, you take one in the groin and briefly lie on the ground holding your balls in hand.
Another example of an amusing mini-game involves you sitting on a bench beside a girl you have taken a liking to as various sports balls come bouncing towards you from the side. The objective is to kick these balls away from you at the right time while the balls bounce in at different speeds and patterns. The funny and almost random moments happen when you successfully kick the slightly tricky football and then it soars behind you, only to be caught by a distant footballer that springs out of nowhere. It is certainly random yet it makes sense at the same time.
Once you complete or fail a mini-game, the following screen gives you a brief (sometimes sarcastic) comment on how well you did. You are also given a grade along with a screen shot depicting success or defeat. Unfortunately, the grading system is hit and miss as there is no way of knowing how well you are doing while playing the game. An ongoing progression bar or running score would have been helpful in order to track your progress in a game. Unfortunately, no such score system or progression bar exists. Additionally, I did not like how the game forced you to succeed a given mini-game in order to proceed to the next one. In my view, all games should have been unlocked from the get-go as some mini-games are quite challenging and will take numerous attempts to complete. There were moments where I felt that the harder I tried, the harder the game became. While there were other times when I failed the tutorial only to succeed in the mini-game itself. After a while, the game does not really provide you enough rewards or incentives for you to keep playing.
The visuals in Rhythm Heaven Fever are quirky and amusing. Yet in a game that is more about keeping the beat, the graphics really to take a back seat to the gameplay and even sound to a degree. As you can tell by the provided screenshots, this game is not a stunner. Perhaps the best way to describe the graphics would be comparing them to moving pictures from a children’s picture book. The game also has a definite retro feel to it. The visuals are good enough to get the point across but it still would not have hurt to make it look more appealing considering how far along we are in the Wii’s life cycle.
The sound in Rhythm Heave Fever is good in that the music is often quite catchy (which helps in maintaining a rhythm). That said the tunes are very basic and sounded like they came from an electronic keyboard. I suppose this was the intended effect to give it a retro sounding feel to it but still it left me wanting something deeper. That being said, the developers seemed to do a good job of making the sound effects seem more satisfying than they actually were.
While Rhythm Heaven Fever can be played with two players, allowing up to four players would have made this game even more appealing. This game could have been the perfect party game. Uploading scores to an online leaderboard would have also been an interesting and beneficial feature to add. I hate to say it but even with over 50 mini-games this game seemed a little bare-boned and a lot more could have been offered in this package.
Overall, Rhythm Heaven Fever is amusing game to play in short spurts. While there is a sense of satisfaction in keeping the rhythm and the game levels are certainly unique, there is not a lot of replay value or incentives to keep playing once you have tackled all the mini-games. Furthermore, the game would have benefited by adding a little more in the visuals department and the addition of more relevant features would have been welcomed, especially when you consider the price. While Rhythm Heaven Fever is a decent game, it is a game that could have been so much more.