Nintendo DS Gets Rhythm

Soon to be released Rhythm Heaven has three fresh mini-games with an old-school vibe

We're suckers for strange DS games, and Nintendo's upcoming Rhythm Heaven is one of the system's weirdest. It's all about following the beat and poking the touch screen with your stylus. Things didn't make sense at first, but once we got the hang of it, we skillfully fueled robots, kept our mouths shut and rocked the assembly line.

There were three mini games to try, and we played them holding the DS like a book (a la Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword) and poking the touch screen. In Robot Factory, we controlled a fuel line, the goal to fill up robots as they passed along a conveyor belt. First, a robot was built on the right side of the screen (in rhythm, no less) and right before it passed us, we tapped the touch screen and watched as the fuel nozzle attached itself to the robot's head. Fuel gradually poured into it, and we had to let go before it overflowed.

Next up was Chorus. The game's developers presented us with three boys (led by a music instructor) on the top screen, one of which could not close his mouth unless we pressed the touch screen, so the goal was to basically sing when instructed to. Sing too long, and the other boys gave us concerned looks.

We concluded our demo with Assembly Line. On the top screen was an image of a pin launcher and a conveyor belt. As two metal plates made their way across the screen, we had to pull back on the pin launcher (like a sling shot) and let it go just as the metal plates overlapped. If done right, the pin sticks itself through the hole and the newly created piece falls onto the line. Not all of these metal plates move at the same speed, so the trick was identifying the beat and completing it.

According to Nintendo, you should be able to play this game without paying attention to what happens on screen and it has a point. Several times, we closed our eyes and successfully completed both Assembly Line and Chorus.

Like the WarioWare series, Rhythm Heaven has simple looking graphics with black and white characters and two color backgrounds, but it doesn't ruin the game. If anything, it adds personality as well as an old school vibe. Besides, it's the music, not the visuals, that are the most important, and if these three mini games are any indication, Nintendo did an excellent job mixing beats.

We doubt it'll sell millions of copies (it may be too niche for Western audiences), but we cannot wait to play more. Rhythm Heaven is one of the freshest DS games to come along in months. Let's hope the TBD 2009 release date is sometime this January.