The Vita, as is typical of a handheld, has already begun collecting its share of oddities and genre bending mixups. Developers eager to try out innovative new ideas that are too risky to make a full-on retail console game out of fit perfectly into this market, and Orgarhythm might be the perfect example of this philosophy. Rhythm game meets real time strategy meets Rock/Paper/Scissors seems an odd match at first glance but Orgarhythm manages to pull off this strangely satisfying match up of contrasting styles with slick touch screen controls and a killer soundtrack that pulses the action along.
What kind of story could wrap these competing forces together? Try this one on for size: the God of Light and his older brother (the God of Darkness, of course) landed on a planet and instantly started looking for new digs. The God of Light called top bunk (in a manner of speaking) and took the surface of the world and his brother went underground. Soon they got lonely and created some minions to keep them company. After a while the God of Darkness and his minions had destroyed or consumed everything underground. Realizing that living under the surface of the earth sucked big time, they invaded the younger brother’s territory. As the God of Light, it’s your job to drive them back underground.
This is accomplished through a set of gameplay mechanisms that seem initially complex at best and Sisyphean at worst. You see, on the battlefield, the God of Light cares not for silly things like whether or not you actually want to have some input on where he walks. He marches/dances (danches?) through the battlefield at his own pace, on his own path, with no direction from the player. Your job is to control the various minions that march along with him and protect your danching (you can go ahead and add that one to your Word dictionary) God from his older brother’s minions. Like a musical version of Captain Planet (without that Heart kid) your minions fall under one of three different elemental categories. Each element is strong against one, which also means they are weak to one. Fire beats Earth, Water beats Fire, and Rock beats Scissors…I mean Earth beats Water. Knowing which handy, color-coded set of troops to send against your enemy is the key to effective domination.
Even if it was just an on-rails Rock/Paper/Scissors simulator, Orgarhythm would have a decent amount going on, but element management isn’t your only task. Not only will you have to drag lines across the ground to place your troops as you walk (longer lines = more troops deployed) but you also have several different attack types for your minions. Strike troops are the only available attack type at the beginning of the game and are great for ground to ground combat. Archer troops are great for striking foes at a distance. Catapult troops can do huge damage to elevated enemies at the cost of speed and a four-troop requirement. Sacrifice troops earn their name by sacrificing themselves in the name of massive damage. You can also use these troops more strategically by setting off two or more at once, which will freeze any enemies between them. If you’re keeping score, that’s now an additional game of Rock/Paper/Scissors within your Rock/Paper/Scissors (queue either worn out Inception reference or worn out Xzibit meme).
As if “Yo Dawg, I heard you like Rock/Paper/Scissors: The Game” wasn’t enough, there’s still another integral aspect to the gameplay. As you can probably tell by the name (and as foreshadowed in the very first paragraph of this review for those of you with short term memory loss) this is a rhythm game as well. You see, all that selecting of elements and attack types we talked about above (while your God walks carelessly along, minding his own godly danching business) also has to play out to the beat. Orgarhythm features a system called “Tri-tapping” that has both the most appropriate name for a gameplay mechanic ever and adds an even deeper layer to the gameplay.
To the beat of the pulsating soundtrack, you’ll need to tap the God, your element choice, and then the attack type. The faster you tap these (to the beat) the more your level will increase and the more troops you’ll have at your disposal. Miss a tap though and your level will reset. This ratchets the already frenetic pace up an additional notch as you fight to keep your level at the max while directing your troops. Assisting in this mechanic are an incredible soundtrack that fits the game like a glove (a limited edition Rock/Paper/Scissors glove, maybe) and a pulsating on-screen icon that allows you to keep time visually as well as aurally. This is especially important when you can’t turn the volume up because you’re out in public or its lights out at the asylum you were committed to when you tried to explain this game to your loved ones.
As you can imagine, “Yo Dawg, I heard you like Rock/Paper/Scissors: The Musical: The Game” can be an incredibly demanding experience. Just talking about the game is exhausting. While the action is flowing however, it’s surprisingly easy to keep track of it all. Helping this are some fantastic touch screen controls that quickly and accurately respond to everything you’re trying to accomplish. For those of you who are concerned about the complexity of it all, I recommend staying on the low difficulties. These levels allow for some challenge without being overwhelming.
Anything higher level should be attempted by diehards only, though, as you can quickly find yourself in over your head. This can be intimidating for sure if you don’t go in with the right mindset. The frustration isn’t alleviated by the slow travel speed of your minions relative to the God of Light. I felt like I was often too busy trying to make sure my minions were caught up and either my strategy or rhythm would suffer as a result. You can double tap the back touch-pad to return all troops to you, but this costs you all your levels. I can place most of the blame for this on myself and general lack of experience with the strategy genre causing me to be in a bit over my head, but the sheer multitude of mechanics to balance doesn’t lend itself to a gentle learning curve.
The game does feature ad-hoc multiplayer with both co-op and competitive modes, however I wasn’t able to test this out as I don’t know any other rhythm action rock/paper/scissors danching God simulator fans in my local area. In fact, just typing that sentence probably cost me at least three real-life friends.
Orgarhythm is one of those games that seems like it was created by an evil genius who had all these competing ideas dance-battling on old refrigerator boxes in his crazy old noggin and he finally just snapped and said “You know what, F all this noise. We’re just gonna throw it all in there and go eat some frozen yogurt.” As a result, it is completely unlike anything else you will ever play. Strictly for that reason, I would recommend giving the game a look if you’re even the least bit interested in any of the genres within. Just make sure that you’re prepared for a fast, frantic, sometimes convoluted but always fair new experience that will test your skills and your rhythm in equal measure.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.