Rhythm Heaven Review

By Scott Alan Marriott - Posted Apr 21, 2009

Looking for a new collection of fun music mini-games for your Nintendo DS? Read this review of 'Rhythm Heaven' from X-Play's Scott Alan Marriott and get ready to tap, flick, hold, and slide your way to a groovy good time.

The Pros
  • Over 50 imaginative activities
  • Amusing visuals and sound
  • Ability to skip games after three failed attempts
The Cons
  • Flicking motion hard to pull off
  • Tough judging system
  • No multiplayer modes

Take two scoops of WarioWare, a dash of Elite Beat Agents, and a dollop of derangement, and you'll have the core ingredients for Rhythm Heaven on DS. It's a collection of 50+ mini-games controlled exclusively with the stylus, and it ranks as one of the kookiest creations from Nintendo. You'll tap, flick, slide, and scribble to satisfy the demands of militant ducks, guitar-shredding ghosts, and singing statues. Then things get a little weird.

A Novel Approach

Rhythm Heaven ReviewBased on Japan's Rhythm Tengoku series, which debuted on Game Boy Advance in 2006, Rhythm Heaven is notable for using the entire touch screen as a scratchpad of sorts. You are not carefully tapping the stylus to hit flashing icons or sliding it across pre-defined lines. Instead, while holding the DS like a book, you make gestures on a blank screen. The opposite screen displays the oddball activity, while music and sound effects help clue you in on when to make your move. Listening is the key to success.

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Flick Shtick

The controls involve one or more of the following motions: (1) quick tapping; (2) lifting the stylus after holding it against the screen; (3) sliding it back and forth; and (4) flicking it forward. The latter move will make you question your sanity. The problem with the flick, which is described as making a checkmark motion, is that it never seems to register consistently. You'll find you either didn't slide the stylus fast enough or use the right amount of wrist action. Flicking a certain finger in the air, however, is much easier. And it's something you'll consider doing when all else fails.

Rhythm Heaven ReviewUnfortunately, there are plenty of mini-games that incorporate the flick technique. The first is "glee club," which has you lifting the stylus from the screen to let an Alien Hominid look-alike belt out a note. (Holding the stylus down closes the creepy crooner's mouth.) It's hard enough at first to determine how long to hold the notes, but then the conductor will say "all together now," and you have to suddenly go Dexter on your DS and slice the screen in one quick swipe. Make a few incomplete slashes and you'll have to start again. The game has a low tolerance for mistakes.

Each of the 50 main challenges is essentially a pass-fail exercise. Those familiar with WarioWare will recognize Rhythm Heaven's structure, as you must complete each mini-game in sequence before you unlock the next. After four consecutive games, you'll encounter a remix challenge that combines snippets from the previous titles in a single, frantically paced test. Once you've completed a mini-game, you can return to it at any time for a shot at earning a gold medal or a "perfect" bonus. Achieving these milestones unlocks songs, goofy rhythm "toys," and games without time restrictions.

Heaven Help Us?

For a Nintendo-developed game, Rhythm Heaven is a surprisingly challenging title that requires a keen sense of timing. Yet its lighthearted humor and whimsical design draw you back for more despite the frustrations. Let's face it, you're not often asked to dropkick vegetables into a knapsack, fuel robots with Kool-Aid, or help concert-going monkeys clap in unison. The unusual art style, so-bad-it's-good music, and sheer variety of activities are not to be missed, unless of course, you've been known to have a tin ear and two left feet.

Article Written By: Scott Alan Marriott