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Rhythm Heaven Fever - Game Review

Is the Rhythm Really Gonna Get You?

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

By

Rhythm Heaven

A dog and a cat playing badminton in the clouds is only one of many oddball premises.

Nintendo
Pros: Quirky, fun, ramps up difficulty slowly but surely.
Cons: Better in small doses.

Want to know the secret to fishing? To hitting baseballs? To manufacturing machinery? To fighting monsters? To eating peas? Judging from Rhythm Heaven Fever, the secret to all of these is rhythm.
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Published and Developed by: Nintendo
Genre: Rhythm
For ages: All
Platform: Wii
Release Date: Feb. 13 2012
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The Basics: A Game of Musical Timing and Off-Beat Concepts

Fever is a game centered around, big surprise, rhythm. The player is given a scenario. He must protect gophers on a date by kicking away basketballs, or play badminton while flying an airplane. All actions must be done at the right moment, indicated by musical cues and sound effects.

Each level is introduced with a tutorial that teaches you the basics for that level. For example, in one you are a fisherman who has to pull on the hook just as a fish bites it. One fish takes two nibbles then bites. Another nibbles then pauses for a moment before biting. A third waggles its tongue and then bites three and a half beats after.

Each level has a sprightly little song that keeps the beat for you, with your various tasks coming and going in various patterns. In the fish level, you’ll have one fish a few times, another will come in, the next might appear only once and then the original one might come back but in a different place in the measure (i.e. instead of nibbling on the first beat he might nibble on the second or third). It is a game of intricate and precise timing.

Presentation: Colorful Visuals and Ingenious Musical Cues

The game manages to create a lot of variety within a very narrow set of parameters. Players generally need only press the A button or, for some particular moves, the A and B buttons together. Yet the way the various rhythmic challenges are woven in and out of each song are impressive.

The most challenging levels are the remixes. Fever contains a set of 50 levels divided into groups of five, with the fifth level always being a mix of the first four, requiring players to go from tap dancing to boxing to cheerleading to firing off rockets without pause. This requires very nimble thinking, and I could rarely get through a remix level until I had played it enough times to have memorized the transitions between the various modes. These are also the most entertaining musically, with mash-up songs that neatly segue from one song to another, although some songs don’t fit will into a particular mix.

Visually the game has a simple, cartoony design. Everything is bright and colorful, letting you know that even if you’re just packing boxes while hitting away bugs, it’s still all in fun. There is a certain elegance in the game’s presentation, with visual and audio indicators that will tell you not just whether you succeeded or failed but whether you moved too quickly or too slowly.

While the game is visually engaging, it is the audio cues that are of primary importance, and as you move through levels the game proves this by increasingly tampers with the visuals. In a level where you play badminton in an airplane, clouds will obscure your view, while in a level where you must high five monkeys peeking out of a clock face, the camera will zoom out to where you can barely see the clock. This forces players to listen ever more closely.

Good to Know: Not for the Rhythmically Challenged

What really makes the later levels so challenging is their eccentric rhythms. Early levels tend to use basic 1-2-3-go patterns, but later on you’ll encounter syncopation and irregular beats. A bossa nova level contains two complex, interrelated rhythms and makes players switch from one to the other. A rap song asks you to press a button at the very moment the lead singer stops her phrase, which was so tricky that it took me 10 minutes just to make it through the level tutorial.

Early levels I managed almost flawlessly (although I have yet to achieve a perfect score in any level) but by the time I was at the midpoint I had to struggle just to get the “Eh, good enough” message that indicates you have squeaked through. The game does not show you a score as you play, and I’m not sure how scoring is weighted, the result being that I sometimes passed levels I was convinced I’d failed, and sometimes thought I was well within the margin of error only to get shot down with a “try again.”

As the levels became more complex, I also found myself at times completely perplexed by my failures. In one peculiar level where you’re one of three creatures bicycling through the air, propelling yourself forward by banging your head onto the rear end of the creature ahead of you (unsurprisingly, it’s a Japanese game), I had no problem with the double hit but wobbled on the three-hit combo, even though I felt I was on the beat. This is infuriating, although I never reached the point of my non-gamer girlfriend, who while trying out the game wound up furiously flinging the remote into the next room and screaming “AAUGH” like a character from Peanuts.

The game encourages you to retry levels, occasionally offering you a prize for getting a perfect score on a previously-played one. There are also a few mini-games, but the only one I played was rather dull and left me disinclined to try out any more.

Verdict: Cute Little Game Keeps You in the Groove

Quirky and challenging, Fever is also very slight. Levels last less than a minute, and while the game does a wonderful job of coming up with new rhythmic variations and new goofy scenarios, it’s still level after level of pushing a button on the beat. I feel the game worked better when I played the DS version of Rhythm Heaven, since to me the handheld console seems more conducive to this sort of light, casual game experience.

I wouldn’t call Fever a great game, but in its simple, colorful way it is still a very entertaining time killer. The game may not be the deepest or cleverest game on the market, but it does have the one component that, as we learn in the game itself, makes all the difference between failure and success: it’s got a beat.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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