Fans of rhythm games who have grown just as tired as everyone else of the generic instrument-based fare of recent days may have paid attention when a bizarre DS title called Rhythm Heaven came out some while back. It was crazy and weird, had flashy presentation with a Warioware vibe, and proved to be quite an engaging and original title in the genre. Its sequel has arrived in the form of Rhythm Heaven Fever, and for all intents and purposes, it's more of the first game but with slicker presentation, being on a console instead of a handheld.
If you're unfamiliar, the game is just as easy to jump into either way. Gameplay is firmly rhythm-based, but not in that “click the colored spots as they scroll along” fashion. Things are much more dynamic here in terms of the actual rhythms that get tested, often with minimal reaction time. The game will walk you through the first bits with your hand held tightly through every level, since each one has its own mechanics, but they can always be skipped at any time.
The gameplay here boils down to controlling a character, object, or action using the A button or A+B together. While there does seem to be a (kind of creepy) abundance of monkeys in this game, acting like a monkey won't get you far. You really do need to develop your rhythm to get anywhere. It sounds simple, but it can get quite crazy to keep track of when the game is going through a Remix section, Warioware-style. Remixes are the highlight here, levels that combine the concepts of the past clump of ideas into a new string, which neatly fits into a song.
Progression is extremely linear, which is a bit of a shame, but by replaying levels you didn't do well enough on the first go-around, you can earn medals and occasionally get challenged to earn Perfect medals, both of which unlock extra features like rhythm 'toys' (no dirty jokes!), music, and other strange oddities. Each level only lasts a couple of minutes on its own, but there's a bunch to play through, and even after the credits roll (the credits naturally being a tap-tastic game as well) you're presented with a set of higher-difficulty, alternate versions of ones you've completed, including new Remixes.
Amusingly, the game will also use its visuals to throw you off, obscuring your vision to test that you have actually gotten a hang of the beat itself via audio cues. In particular, there's a couple of levels that cover the screen with a translucent visual depiction of “the story so far” that has led to the events of the levels being played.
The gameplay is basic while still requiring a strong sense of beat and reaction time—split-second timing all over the place—but what really makes Rhythm Heaven games stand out is the whacko presentation. Even the game itself occasionally doesn't seem to even know what freakin' things it's throwing out, mocking itself in the process at the random weirdness. Everything looks sharp, vibrant, colorful, and smooth, and it's definitely a game that would look just as well on any other home console with its flashy animation and Sunday comics art design.
Just be prepared for raised eyebrows and abnormalities of a highly Japanese nature. It's not cliché anime stuff, though, but it's definitely pretty out there, which will be hit or miss with folks. Extra touches like altering the visuals to match special themes for the Remix stages is a great touch as well, and while some audio cues get a bit grating (“One-two-three-four!”), others have multiple recordings and add a localized life to things (“Whoa! You go, Big Guy!”). All in all, the voices and writing is well-localized and feels like a sort of extension of the WarioWare franchise.
If you only have a Wii and have been dying for some new content on the console, this is definitely something worth looking into to tide you over for a bit. If you enjoyed the DS title, for only $30 you can get its worthy sequel (with even better audio/visual presentation). If you're simply craving something crazy, weird, and refreshing to the rhythm genre, the discounted asking price could be worth it. In either case, this franchise's downright loopy beat will keep going on, and its creativity earns the cult following it has garnered.