Review: Orgarhythm's unique gameplay will have you tapping to the beat
It’s a shame that so few people own a PS Vita, doubly so whenever a console-exclusive game comes along that’s so good at taking advantage of its features, and actually delivers a unique and rewarding experience. This is exactly the case with Orgarhythm, a bizarre mix of rhythm game and RTS components directed by Tak Hirai and published by XSEED Games. Hirai’s influence, through his work on Space Channel 5 and the excellent DS puzzler Meteos, is especially apparent, and if you’re willing to go out on a limb and try out some almost totally fresh gameplay ideas, you’ll find Orgarhythm to be a surprisingly fun low-key title that’s a great holdover until the annual parade of triple-A titles hits this Winter.
Orgarhythm follows in the footsteps of previous Sony handheld darling Patapon, but the game is controlled entirely via the touch screen, and because it’s on the 3D plane, the strategy elements feel much more like a traditional RTS, in that you’re constantly touching areas in order to send your troops there to fight. However, the gameplay is much lighter than something like Starcraft or Age of Empires because of the simplistic and arcadey rock-paper-scissors-style interface and the pace being much faster and more exciting.
Your avatar in each level is a dancing god, who moves among his troops along a set rail path in each level, and you command your troops by tapping him to the beat of the music. You then select the color and unit type of the soldiers you want to command, and direct them by dragging your finger across the screen. Choosing the correct color and unit type has a sort of rock-paper-scissors within rock-paper-scissors dynamic, where one of each of the three colors and units are strong against one and weak against another. The better you accomplish this to the beat of the background track, increases the amount of troops of each color you have, and their attack strength. You can also earn your god special powers, which you can cast at will during the fight, also on beat, in order to provide temporarily buffed stats and healing. It seems like a gamble, but all these bizarre elements somehow manage to come together into some very smooth, dynamic gameplay, with a very elegant style. It never gets boring, and that right there is enough for me.
There’s also twelve boss fights in game, and I was really impressed at the level of variation between each of them in a game with such complex dynamics. Each one feels meticulously designed, and are a challenge without being frustrating. That being said, there’s definitely not enough of them in a game that costs $30. The game can easily be completed within five hours, and the only real extras you get are a separate score attack mode, that’s not really all that different from the feel of the actual game.
From a technical standpoint, the game is a little bit underwhelming. While the music in this game is excellent, the graphics are somewhat bland for a game with such a colorful premise, and the amount of glitchy input on the touch-screen is just a hair above the line of it being unacceptable. Particularly in the tutorial mode, I frequently found my single touch input on the screen being counted as two taps in the game, keeping me from moving my troops in time, and causing me to repeatedly fail the objective. There’s also a multiplayer component to this game, but it was impossible to accurately test the strengths and weaknesses of it, because there’s literally no one anywhere near me that I know of who owns a PS Vita, and so finding an ad-hoc game was pretty much not ever going to happen.
Is Orgarhythm a downloadable title that’s worth the $30 price tag? Absolutely. Is it so good that you shouldn’t wait for the price to come down a bit first? Not quite. It’s a fresh fun take on rhythm games, and it’s largely enjoyable, but a little too many technical hiccups keep this good game from being truly great. Try it out if you can though, at least. It really is friggin’ fun, and it's just plain nice to see that not everyone has given up on trying to make cool new games for the Vita.