If the rhythm genre is dead, then nobody bothered to tell Nintendo, as the company has finally taken its popular Rhythm Heaven franchise and crafted a proper console version. The resulting game manages to retain all the charm and fun of its handheld brethren while carving out an identity of its own on the Wii. If this is to be the Wii's last hurrah before Nintendo releases its new system, then titles like Rhythm Heaven Fever are sending the console out on top.
Fever couldn't be a simpler game to play, as all the challenges require some combination of tapping the A button, tapping A and B together or holding the two buttons briefly. There are no complex, shoehorned motion controls or odd contortions — just simple button presses meant to be synced with the on-screen action. Furthermore, every game employs a short tutorial beforehand, so you're given ample opportunity to learn the intricacies of each rhythm game before you're thrown into the real thing. Simple controls don't make for a simple game, though, as constantly changing rhythms, timing and tempo all add extra layers of difficulty. Furthermore, sometimes the camera will zoom out, become obscured, change focus or employ some other trick to take away visual cues and force you to work that much harder to succeed. Rhythm Heaven Fever may look simple on paper, but it provides ample challenge at nearly every turn.
The games are delightfully offbeat, and anyone who's played a previous Rhythm Heaven title will almost assuredly enjoy the craziness. In one game, you're a luchador providing monosyllabic answers and striking powerful poses for the assembled throng of reporters. In another instance, players take control of a game of badminton played by a cat and dog as they skim the treetops in airplanes. Believe it or not, these are actually the more plausible and grounded scenarios, as some of the situations are so far out as to be borderline inexplicable. If I were to try and lay a few of the more esoteric games out here, you would assume I had experienced a stroke midway through writing the sentence and was merely stringing together random words. The crazy thing is that it works, and the game's absurdity only adds to the fun.
Fever's 50 games are divided across 10 sets of levels, with each set consisting of four games and a final remix challenge. While the games offer varied, enjoyable experiences, the remix is where the fun really happens. These mash-up stages take everything you just learned over the previous levels and force players to react and adjust on the fly. The finales throw constant curveballs, changing familiar rhythms and splicing together games so quickly that you never really have time to get comfortable. This discomfort is good, though, as it forces players to rely on their internal metronome to succeed rather than rote memorization.
Complementing the wacky games is a unique art style that looks like it would be right at home in '60s or '70s educational cartoons like one would find in "Schoolhouse Rock" or "Sesame Street." All of the characters are adorable and also project a sense of innocence and playfulness, perfectly conveying the tone of the game. The people (and critters) you meet are memorable, and you'll easily find yourself bonding with them in the short time you have together. It speaks volumes that the game is able to do so much to make you connect and care about characters that you never see for more than two minutes at a time.
Obviously, the game would be nothing without a killer soundtrack, and Rhythm Heaven Fever delivers that in spades. Each level features an original track, and the musical selection runs the gamut from electronica to rock to country to hip-hop. There's something here for practically every musical taste, and all the music is so memorable and catchy that you can't help but bob your head or tap your toes with the beat.
There is one major missed opportunity in the game, and that comes in the paltry and disappointing multiplayer options. While Fever is the first game in the franchise to offer two-player support, the option is only available on a handful of challenges, and none of them do much to distinguish themselves from the single-player variant. Also, the lack of online multiplayer support further limits multiplayer appeal, restricting players to finding a like-minded friend who's willing to come over for a little time on the couch.
That's really the only complaint that can be levied at this otherwise stellar game, which is a must-buy for fans of the rhythm genre who are looking for their next fix. Rhythm Heaven Fever successfully translates what had previously been a handheld-only series to consoles, and it offers enough fun and challenge to entertain players for hours and hours. This quirky little game may be just the motivation you need to pull your mothballed Wii out of the closet, plug it back in and have an absolute blast.
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