Beat it like it owes you money.
For a long time now, the musical video game scene in the United States has been
dominated by the singing and dancing revolution.
But overseas, folks have been following the thumping beat of a different drummer…and
now you can, too, with Namco’s new Taiko
Drum Master for the PS2.
If you’re looking for a new type of quirky, catchy, musical game that doesn’t
involve jumping up and down like a monkey or singing in tune, then Taiko
Drum Master might be just what the doctor ordered. Cures cost money,
though, and this one is no exception. If you want to play this game with your
friends or family and not have to resort to pounding on your PS2 controller,
be prepared to shell out in upwards of one hundred dollars. Or better yet, don’t
premise is pretty simple. Just choose from a selection of approximately thirty
songs and use the taiko sticks to bang the mini taiko drum controller (included)
to the beat. The drum has two “control zones” – the center section of the drum “booms,” while
the edges “tap.” As a song plays, blue (tap) and red (boom) icons scroll across
the screen prompting you to perform the correct beat at just the right time.
When big blue and red icons appear, you need to perform that particular beat
with both drum sticks. There are also drum roll commands and “burst notes” that
require you to beat the drum as quickly as possible. It’s an extremely simple
scheme that works very well. If you have even the slightest sense of rhythm,
you’ll be able to handle this game.
Like other rhythm games, your performance is rated as you play. Beats are measured
as “great,” “good,” or “bad” depending on how you do. The number of consecutive
successful beats you nail in a row is also measured and will build up points
needed to clear the round. It follows an established way of judging rhythm
games and works well here.
The majority of the drumming takes place in Taiko mode, where there are lots of varied tunes to choose from. Pop tracks include Brittney Spears’ Toxic and Jet’s Are
You Gonna Be My Girl, while selections such as Beethoven’s Symphony
No. 5 and Hungarian Dances No. 5 will please those who enjoy hammering out beats to classical pieces. Rounding out the playlist is a handful of Namco originals like Katamari
on the Rocks from Katamari Damacy and Brave
Sword, Braver Soul from Soul
Once you select a song, it’s time to pick a difficulty. Easy, medium, and hard
modes present a nice range of challenges for novice drummers and the rhythmically
challenged, while the unlockable Hardest mode should provide a tricky change
of pace for the expert table-tappers.
In addition to Taiko mode, Taiko Drum Master follows up the
experience with three simple mini-games. There’s a Watermelon eating contest,
if you can believe it, in which you’ll scarf down four watermelons by banging
on the drum as fast as you can while spitting out seeds and dodging the attacks
of a blindfolded child. There’s also the Fireworks Festival, which will test
your reaction time as you send off fireworks and kick away bombs. The most complicated
game is Reach the Helicopter. For reasons unknown, a group of dogs pile onto
one another’s shoulders in an attempt to reach a hovering whirlybird. As it gains
altitude, the stack of dogs will begin to sway and your job is to keep it from
falling by tilting it left or right with the appropriate drum beats.
none of the mini-games are terribly deep, they’re plenty of fun to play against
friends due to their sheer wackiness. Of course, the likelihood of ever meeting
another person with Taiko
Drum Master is slim, so your friend will probably have to use a controller,
which works but isn’t remotely as entertaining. For a game as inherently party-worthy
Drum Master, the fact that you can’t buy an officially-licensed Taiko
drum controller separately is ludicrous. Instead, you’ll either have to pick
up Red Octane’s third-party drum for $40 or another copy of Taiko
Drum Master for $60. Either way, to play the game with friends the way
it was meant to be played, you’ll have to shell out at least a c-note.
As you might imagine, Taiko boasts some low-tech, crazy visuals.
Of course, most of the weird Japanese action takes place at the bottom of the
screen, and since you have to watch the signals flowing along the top so carefully,
you’ll probably miss the shenanigans unless you watch someone else play.
Taiko Drum Master is a good party game thanks to its simple,
primal control and eclectic selection of songs, but like other gimmicky rhythm
games (see Samba
De Amigo), it can lay a serious beatdown on the wallet. For one hundred dollars
you could buy a keg, a stripper, a clown, or make a down payment on a bouncy
castle. Now THAT’S a party. While Taiko
Drum Master‘s novelty value is clear, you might want to skip this beat
in favor of a cheaper groove.