Echoing the tempos which drive the genre, music-rhythm games seem to swing in and out of public favor. While franchises such Donkey Konga, Rock Band, as well as Guitar Hero and DJ Hero have all experienced varying levels of success, entries across each respective series were quickly relegated to bargain-bin fodder. Evidently, traveling down the note highway is enjoyable in short doses, but repeated journeys become as monotonous as the morning commute.
As the presumed portmanteau suggests, recent PS Vita release Orgarhythm offers a notable twist, mixing real-time strategy elements over a beat-based framework. SCE Japan Studio/Pyramid’s curious PSP series Patapon is likely the best point of reference, with both games tasking players to triumph over enemies in time to a throbbing, oft hypnotic beat.
Leading the charge into hostile territories is the God of Light, a perpetually prancing protagonist who never takes on foes directly. Instead, the hero summons minions to take on his arch-rival, by a technique referred to as Tri-Tapping. After initiating a sequence by touching the dancing deity, players then choose one of three different, elementally-themed troops. Employing a rock-scissors-paper mechanic, your earth, water, and fire regiments have a natural strength and weakness against similarly themed, color-coded foes.
After selecting a team, players also choose between fighters, archers, siege and sacrificial soldiers, endowing a secondary layer of complexity over the proceedings. Finally, players command their regiments around the map, with Orgarhythm automatically assigning quantities of troops based on the length of a swipe. In execution, your first few forays will likely be as bewildering as any written explanation. Luckily, the title provides a ten-part interactive tutorial that guides gamers through each individual mechanic.
Timing comes into play with the pacing of the first three taps, with players receiving feedback based on how close they match a touch to the beat of Orgarhythm’s soundtrack. Impeccably timed taps help your squads grow in strength and quantity, supplying a statistical advantage over foes. Over time assaults on enemies forces contribute to a support gauge. Once this meter reaches one-third of its capacity, The God of Light is given additional abilities- from summoning a healing field, slowing the speed of rivals, and boosting offensive or defensive abilities. Having a completely filled gauge even allows players to discharge a devastating lightening attack which is invaluable when under direct attack.
While relegating the God of Light to pre-set path prohibits Orgarhythm from becoming overwhelming, a few flaws can induce frustration. Although the option for AI can be toggled on the options screen, your soldiers frequently favor pacifistic frolicking over fighting. Woefully, troops will run past foes, habitually fail to engage nearby threats, while ranged soldier can only stand on prescribed zones to attack over walls. Orgarhythm’s other fault them from its depth. Although players can challenge the games twelve stages across three difficulty levels in an effort to chase high scores for the online leaderboards, there’s an undeniable homogeneity throughout the campaign’s levels.
Fortunately, boss battles at the end of each level help offset some of the uniformity of attacking successions of encroaching enemies. Enormous adversaries that require careful strategy pleasingly punctuate stages- each escalating the tempo of the game and the intensity of battle as players whittle away their life bar. While these fights fluctuate rowdily in challenge level, defeat is accompanied by dividends. Every defeated foe pays out experience that helps level up the player, augmenting the God of Light’s arsenal of abilities.
While an appreciation of Orgarhythm’s soundtrack is going to be subjective, with players likely preferring either the game’s more ethereal or tribal-based tracks, all should appreciate the game’s sound design. Successful Tri-Taps add additional instrument tracks to the mix, often accentuating the beat, allowing for additional combos. Visually, the title’s fixed perspective makes close combat appear a bit cluttered. Since, the PS Vita buttons and stick go unused, it would have been helpful if one or more of these input options were used to momentarily zoom in on the action.
Although Orgarhythm offers a fairly fleeing experience, the title is undeniably engaging. As stages swell to an entrancing crescendo it’s easy to get sucked into the title, disregarding the world around you as you guide your troops toward triumph. If players can get past both the game’s $29.99 USD price and lackluster AI, they’ll discover one of the more distinct entries in the music-rhythm genre. Those who appreciate quirky titles are encourage to sidestep the end caps full of Rock Band: Country Track Pack 2, Band Hero, and Def Jam Rapstar and give Orgarhythm a go.