Review: Orgarhythm (PSV)

Title: Orgarhythm
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1.2 GB)
Release Date: October 23, 2012
Publisher: XSEED
Developer: Nielo, Acquire
Original MSRP: $29.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
Orgarhythm is exclusive to the PlayStation Vita.

Ever since Rock Band and Guitar Hero brought forth the explosion of the rhythm genre, developers have been experimenting with the marriage of rhythm games and gameplay styles of various characteristics.  Sound Shapes meshed rhythm and platforming harmoniously, playing on the idea that music and timed movement both require the same sort of precision for successful execution.  Retro/Grade combined the rhythm and SHMUP genres in an addictive way, offering tailored experiences for every level of gamer.  The newest addition to these trendy titles, Orgarhythm, seeks to conjoin rhythm with a genre that is seemingly even more unrelated to music than SHMUPs or platformers.  Real-time strategy mechanics and prompt screen tapping comes together in Orgarhythm to create an original and unique take on both genres involved, giving players an experience like no other.

Gameplay:
Aside from pausing the game with the start button, Orgarhythm is controlled entirely by touch.  Both the touchscreen and rear touch panel come into play as you move your troops through the battlefield.  You are the God of Light and your ultimate mission is to defeat your brother, the God of Darkness, in a dance battle of epic proportions.  The 12 single player levels each offer three different difficulty modes, ‘casual’, ‘normal’, and ‘hard’, with ‘hard’ being unlocked only after the level is completed on ‘normal’.

Everything in Orgarhythm begins with a tap on your character, the God of Light.  A clear sphere that closes in on him coincides with the music in the game to indicate the precise moment for the perfect tap.  The God of Light is tapped first, followed by the selection of your colored soldiers (red, blue, or yellow).  Your soldier selection requires the same precise timing with the same audio and visual indication of your previous God of Light tap.  Your colored soldier selection is important because certain colored soldiers are more effective against certain colored enemies in classic rock-paper-scissors fashion.  After selecting your soldier, the same tap mechanic is applied to weapon selection.  You will eventually unlock the ability to use your soldiers as archers, catapult operators, and sacrificees in addition to the hand to hand combat that is available right from the beginning.

The God of Light will boogie through the battlefield on his own, and it is up the player to effectively time his/her taps and send the most effective soldiers after the most appropriate enemies.  Each of your colored soldier teams have levels that are increased with perfect tap combos.  If you can manage to tap the God of Light, a colored soldier group, and a weapon each with an ‘excellent’ or ‘cool’ rating, you will move that colored group up one level.  They will eventually max out but if you cannot continue with either ‘excellent’ or ‘cool’ ratings, you will knock your troops down a notch.

After the weapon selection tap, your colored soldiers are dragged to your desired destination with a quick swipe of your finger across the screen; the longer the drag, the higher the number of soldiers deployed.  If the battlefield is getting out of control and too many of your troops are spread thin across the environment, you can tap the rear touch panel 4 times to regroup.  The catch is that all your troops will return to level 1 as a result of this action, losing their increased attack power.  Every enemy in the game is gunning for the God of Light, who has his own power bar.  When the boss of the level is defeated or the God of Light’s power bar is depleted, the game session is over.  Check out the demo video below from Orgarhythm’s official website for a better understanding of how the game works.

The boss battles at the end of each level are well done, creative, and challenging while immersing the player.  All gameplay elements are necessary for success and they are incorporated into the fight in such a way that makes sense.  When selecting a group of colored soldiers, the player can opt to use the special move instead, based off a meter that fills as the battle rages on.  The special can offer a number of different features including increased strength, defense, and even control of powerful lightening that strikes any area of the screen with a simple tap.

Orgarhythm keeps track of an impressive library of stats from time played to enemies thwarted and everything in between.  Playing the same levels over and over again can actually prove useful as you will gain experience and rise in ‘skill level’.  Skill level increases can boost your attributes by strengthening your attack power and hardening your defenses, to name a few examples.

Visuals:
Orgarhythm is impressive in the way so many characters can be on screen without a frame skip, stall, or hiccup of any kind.  The God of Light, enemies, soldiers, and bosses are not detailed by any means but they are so small that any polish may have gone unnoticed.  They are all in motion at the same time because every character is dancing while moving along the battlefield.  The environments are not very dynamic and they lack texture detail/polish.  The intro to the game however has beautiful color and lighting, reminiscent of the glowing tribal entities from Outland.

Audio:
Audio is obviously a major component in rhythm games and it can easily make or break the experience.  In Orgarhythm, the mixture of tribal music with techno and club beats fits the world appropriately.  You will notice that you cannot help but bob your head as you tap and drag your fingers frantically on the screen.  I did notice that in some boss fights, the beat changes abruptly and it becomes very hard to keep the rhythm.  The perfect tap stopped coinciding with a prominent drum beat and the visual component was all I had to go on.  It was not clear as to whether this was an oversight, or done intentionally to add difficulty to the boss fight itself.

Online/Multiplayer:
Orgarhythm features ad-hoc only multiplayer in both co-op and versus modes.  There is no online play via 3G or WiFi.  The resources necessary to try these modes (another Vita in close range and a second copy of the game) were unavailable at the time of review.

Conclusion:
The easiest way to rate a game is to analyze the way it stacks up to the others in its genre.  This is impossible with Orgarhythm because it is one-of-a-kind in its style, approach, and gameplay.  It isn’t as fun as the peripheral based rhythm games and not nearly as deep as many real time strategy experiences but it should not be penalized for the lack of these attributes.  I commend Nielo and Acquire for attempting to creatively combine gameplay types that are at opposite ends of the spectrum but I do not feel that Orgarhythm has the appeal or scale to justify a $29.99 price tag.  At only $10 less than a full retail release, this game is a glorified mobile experience that does not take advantage of the Vita’s hardware.  Sure the touchscreen is used remarkably but the rear touch panel serves only one function with an awkward 4-tap input.  There is no button use and no gyroscope incorporation.   The game is not broken by any means and does flow flawlessly from beginning to end with a clear focus, but it does not command the attention or offer the scope of many downloadable titles that are half its price.

Score:
7.0

*All screenshots in this review were taken using the PlayStation Vita’s built-in screen capture functionality.

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