Release Date: June 12, 2009
By this point in the game universe, you've probably played using controllers shaped like guns, controllers shaped like guitars, and controllers shaped like drums. Maybe you've even put those fake little tennis racket heads on your Wii Remote to perfect your backhand. I think it's safe to say, however, this is the first game anyone has ever played where the required peripheral is a box.
I was extremely skeptical as I read over the game specs. Let's Tap is a game that uses the unique control scheme of the Wii platform in an entirely new way. You place the Wiimote sideways and upside-down on a box (the game even recommends a tissue box as the perfect size) and by simply using your fingers to tap on the box at various speeds and velocities, you can play a handful of mini-games with up to four other players.
As I said, I was highly dubious of this until I went through the helpful in-game tutorial. First up, I had to find a box. I have drawers of twist ties, random screws and old wrapping paper, but I just don't keep boxes in plentiful supply. Worse yet, the only tissue boxes I have are the tall square ones, not the preferred rectangular ones. I actually ended up going to the post office and picking up a mailing box to use, which ended up being a great size and worked perfectly. Before I get to the meat of the game, let me just register that one of the game's most unique and focused uses is also going to be its biggest limitation. If you buy Rock Band, for example, it's simply understood that you need the guitar, drums and microphone to play the game fully and properly. People get that. With Let's Tap, however, you need to provide your own boxes, and unless you're the type to buy your Kleenex in bulk, odds are that you'll spend a lot of time scrambling around the house to play a party game.
With my mailing box assembled and in front of me, I began the in-game tutorial. My default tap was way too hard, and the game encouraged me to lighten up a bit. It's surprising just how lightly you can tap the box and have the game still register it. I'm not 100 percent sure how the technology works, so I'm just going to go with magic. It's Nintendo after all; they do stuff like that. In the general scheme of the game, you'll control a little neon gingerbread man. Slow and steady taps make him walk; increase the pace but stay low on the velocity, and his walk will increase to a sprint; and slamming the box so hard that it nearly falls off the ottoman you will result in your little neon guy jumping gymnastically. It's sort of a modern Track and Field.
In this tap version of the Running Man (which I think would've been a way better name than The Tap Runner, as it's actually called), you and up to three other friends or computer opponents navigate a light-infused track and try to be the first to cross the finish line. It starts off simply, but soon there are crushing ceiling blocks to avoid, hurdles and springboards to jump over, and long-distance sprints you'll have to make to win. I admit that it's fun, but it's the kind of fun that would double or triple when you're playing with other people. Playing against the computer ends up being a fight against futility because it kicks your butt while you're accidentally tapping the box too hard and sending your guy jumping up rather than sprinting, sliding the box further off your ottoman until it falls and scares the cats who go tearing out of the room. Or maybe that's just me.
It's not all neon tracks and running. Another party option is Rhythm Tap, which I can only equate to Donkey Konga. A beat will scroll from right to left, and you have to match the pace and mirror the rhythm. The music is actually pretty decent, if light and generic, and the game play is fun, if a bit dated. In today's age of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, side-scrolling rhythm games are just a few years behind the curve, even if it is reinvented by tapping on a box.
Probably my favorite out of the bunch is another game option called Silent Blocks (hey, a game mode that doesn't have the word "Tap" in it!). It's a tap-based version of Jenga. Each player has a vertical tower of different colored flat blocks, and tapping slowly will hammer the blocks out of place to shrink the teetering tower. There is a tiny element of Tetris or Bejeweled thrown in for good measure, as combining same-colored blocks together results in a more valuable section that increases your score. It starts off simply enough, but the later levels have a lot more colors and challenge your steady hand as well as your forethought. Again, this is the kind of game that excels with other players in the same room.
In another option, and thankfully another departure from having the word "Tap" in its name, there is Bubble Voyager, which is kind of a 2-D side-scrolling shooter of sorts. It's really more of a novelty than a serious scroller or shooter, but that's kind of to be expected. The environment is filled with all manner of oddball things like random obstacles and menacing octopuses that attempt to bonk into you. You softly and regularly tap your way around the environment, with hard slaps firing missiles — kind of the same way nuclear submarines work. I suspect most people will play this mode the same amount of times I did. The first time, I figured out the controls and general gist of things, and a second time after I understood it, only to realize that it's not very fun.
The final doesn't-have-Tap-in-its-name game option is the Visualizer. It's kind of a mix between an interactive screensaver or staring at your iTunes visualizer: pretty, but really not much depth. When you select the Visualizer mode, you can then select one of four different themes within, including Fireworks, Ink, Paint or Water. I hesitate to call it a "game option," as it's not really a game. You can soft- and hard-tap your way through each mode and create new patterns of objects. In the Fireworks theme, for example, tapping a certain sequence of hard and soft taps will produce predetermined "hidden" visuals, like exploding smiley faces or showering a rainfall of sparkling fireworks over a city. It's fun to play through to figure out the patterns, but that's about as deep as it gets. You can opt to go for the challenge mode of the Visualizer, in which you tap certain colored balls into like-colored containers, which then unlocks more ball colors. I wish I could say there was a hidden mode or new game that got unlocked for doing that, but there isn't. It's just a fun little "Hey, look what we can do!" kind of thing.
All in all, Let's Tap is surprisingly fun and is as unique as can be on one of the most unique consoles out there. As a party game, it's definitely made to be played with a roomful of folks, as the fun of any multiplayer mode depends on the players as much as it does the game. A few points get docked for the repetitive nature of some of the options, like the Visualizer and the Bubble Voyager, because I feel the real meat of the game lies in the Tap Runner and Silent Blocks, and that the other options were just thrown in to round out the title. Another point gets knocked off for having to use a friggin' box as part of the control scheme! It's unique but can be inconvenient for some folks. However, if you have a house full of tissue boxes and four Wiimotes (I'm sure there's a Judd Apatow-esque joke in there somewhere), Let's Tap is worth it for a bunch of laughs.
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