Tap Tap Revenge

There’s a first time for everything, and maybe now is time for my first game review. I try to shy away from writing actual reviews on things that aren’t movies. Any bumpkin can have an opinion on a movie, bumpkins like me! Music and games, however, that’s a lot harder. You kinda need to have some idea what you’re talking about.

I recently became the proud owner of my very own iPhone. I’m not completely in love with it (there are some bugs and kinks that need to be worked out), but it’s very shiny and finally combines the only two possessions I take everywhere with me without exception: my iPod and my mobile (I kid you know, I take my iPod more places than I take my wallet, I have a money clip for essentials like cash and ID). In fact, it lets me take my iPod more places than ever before (there are certain social situations in which carrying an iPod might be construed as ‘rude’). If the damn thing had a built-in flash, I might have even been convinced that I don’t need my camera for gigs (jury’s still out on the quality of the iPhone’s camera, though the ability to shoot and upload is a plus).

The first thing I did once I had my iPhone safely home and plugged into my computer was look for ringtones. I’m proud to say that my hand-selected 40-second clip from SOiL’s Halo sounds awesome.

The second thing I did was start looking for cool apps. A twitter app was first off the rank, with me deciding that Echofon (as used by @JohnnyGalvatron) was clearly superior to Twitterific (as used by @cwgabriel of Penny Arcade fame). I then added the Domino’s Pizza ordering app, fr teh lulz I suppose. I mean, I only ever order online anyway, and I can completely picture myself ordering from my iPhone just because it’s my iPhone and I can.

Basics aside, it was time to look for games! Which brings me to the subject of today’s post: Tap Tap Revenge 3.

This incredible little rhythm game in the style of guitar hero is such a pleasure to play, that I felt the need to share this fact with the world.

Unconstrained by the implications of guitar hero or rock band, Tap Tap Revenge 3 is delightfully cross-genre, with songs ranging from folk, dance, alternative, and even metal. There is even a Tap Tap Revenge theme song that you can play at each of the games 4 difficulty settings.

Occasionally, the game suffers from the mortal enemy of all rhythm games: where the taps you are required to perform don’t seem to make sense in the context of the song that’s playing; either the taps are syncopated, or they adhere to a beat that I’m not hearing. Blessedly, these songs are few and far between, and the issue can usually be rectified by increasing the difficulty level.

Songs range from unfatiguing snippets of a little over a minute and a half in length, to glorious full-length tracks of excellent songs such as six of the Foo Fighters best.  The short tracks have been trimmed down seamlessly, never reducing the enjoyment of the songs.  Certain ‘promotional’ tracks also link directly to iTunes, allowing you to buy and download the full track directly to your iPhone/iTouch and listen straight away.

Visually, the game is intriguing and very enjoyable. Rather than the consistent-to-the-point-of-being-boring fret boards that characterise the guitar hero and rock band games, the play screen style varies from song to song, generally grouped by distributing company. Most of the backgrounds are quietly animated, with various themes on the “strings” ranching from coloured ball bearings running down channels towards the tap zone, to circles travelling down straight lines, to the artist-specific screens. They all light up or change when you trigger a multiplier bonus of 8x or more (though the ones that change can be mighty confusing if you’re not paying attention).


Wishing Well by the Airborne Toxic Event is a sheer work of art,
both the screens and the song.

The only downside here is that the lack of said fretboards also means no frets, which can make identifying ‘chords’ a little more challenging when you have three dozen notes flying down that little screen at you!

Played on just three ‘strings’, and without strumming, it might seem that Tap Tap Revenge could be slightly simplistic compared to other rhythm games, but I assure you that this is not the case. On the higher difficulty levels, held ‘notes’ and ‘chords’ are used in conjunction with taps to ensure that your fingers are flying. I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly sure that the only way I could ever be successful at Hard or Extreme difficulties would be to put the iPhone on some sort of tripod so that I could use two hands without struggling to hang on to the handset!

With your fingers on the touch screen, Tap Tap Revenge has a delightfully organic feel to it that is very difficult to explain*. To the unmusically talented, like myself, it feels closer to ‘playing’ an instrument than guitar hero or rock band, and more natural than Dance Dance Revolution feels like dancing.

* Actually, discussing this with a friend later, I likened playing Tap Tap Revenge to being like Whack-a-mole if that were set to a song, and there was advance warning of which mole was going to pop up next.

Streaks of ‘notes’ increase your multiplier, up to 8x; however, this bonus has to be triggered. Fortunately, the accelerometer in the iPhone is pleasantly sensitive and you can trigger the 8x multiplier just by tapping the screen a little more firmly. Star-shaped notes in the game can be collected for a 16x multiplier that last for ten second, activated by tapping the star icon on the side of the screen. Unlike the 8x multiplier, which remains active until you miss a note, the 16x bonus has a ten-second life span, so I recommend saving them for the moment immediately after you lose your 8x multiplier.

The screen is jam-packed with information, if you can tear your eyes away from the notes to take it in: a streak counter in the top left, an accuracy counter in the top right, a multiplier bar showing what your current streak-multiplier is at, an accuracy bar that shows if you’re striking the notes too soon or too late, and my personal favourite: a time bar that shows how far through the song you are.

The more forgiving accuracy scoring system keeps the game from getting too frustrating. You gain more points the closer to spot-on you strike the notes, but there is enough lee-way on either side to keep the game from getting frustrating. And, as much as I loved that in guitar hero if you missed a note, you didn’t hear it play, the absence of twangs and sudden silences is certainly enjoyable.

All round, a very enjoyable experience, and a great way to kill 2 hours and most of your iPhone’s battery. Oh yeah, and it’s free!

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~ by ghostwolfe on January 4, 2010.

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