previews\ Jul 15, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Ontamarama - NDS - Preview

E3 2007 Preview

Music is one of the hardest genres to develop for. Activision has had a fun time with it, and now EA is breaking in with Rock Band. But when is the last time you’ve seen a good music game for a handheld platform? Most never make it Stateside, and some aren’t released at all. 

Ontamarama, a pumpin’ new music game from Atlus, is ready to make the dream a reality. I had heard the game resembled Dance Dance Revolution, but that’s not an accurate comparison. That makes Ontamarama sound like a knock-off, which it is not. 

You will press buttons in a beat-oriented sequences as they scroll across the screen. But the similarities end there. No dance pad is needed. No special controller. No gimmicks are presented. Just great, addictive gameplay with one of the best pop/rock and hip-hop-style soundtracks you’ve heard on the DS. 

It took three minutes for the gameplay of Ontamarama to make sense, and only another 60 seconds for me to become hooked. The basic gist is this: brightly colored, circular creatures appear on the touch screen. Touch them as fast as possible to load your music cannon (that’s not the official name, but the game has not been fully translated into English yet and that is the best way to describe the feature). 

Let’s suppose the first three creatures were blue, and that the second two were yellow. Levels start out fairly simple, at least that was the case with the two I played through, so you can be pretty sure of the formation that’ll come next. Three blue circles will scroll across the screen, each potentially containing a different arrow (pointing up, down, left, or right). As each arrow icon reaches the music connection point, players must press the button that corresponds to the arrow. 

If the arrow is one long tube, that means you have hold the button for the duration that the arrow scrolls through the music connection point, similar to the way you have to hold notes in Guitar Hero. But unlike Guitar Hero, where speed, timing, and holding is all it takes to score, you will only be able to hit notes successfully in Ontamarama if you’ve captured every creature that appeared on the touch screen. 

As the level starts to heat up, as additional creatures appear, and as arrows scroll through at different rates, you will start to see just how much challenge and gameplay value can be applied to a handheld music game. Give it a few minutes of your time and Ontamarama could give you hours of music-to-your-ears entertainment.


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