Review: Let's Tap
Posted 13 Feb 2009 at 23:09 by Jo
Japan Import Review
|"Even when players can't get the controls right, Tap Runner creates such a competitive aura, you'll be wishing your friends do terrible when balancing on the tight ropes and tapping furiously to beat your mates..."|
Let's Tap is Prope's first game and considering the studio is headed by Sonic creator Yuji Naka, the quirky game has received quite a good deal of attention from the gaming community, lets see if penguins can really play this game.
The biggest pull of the game and what really makes it stand out, even among other Wii titles, is the control style: put the Wii remote face down on a flat surface, tap said surface and voilá, the remote will pick up the vibrations of your taps, allowing you to play without even touching the controller. The game comes with a cardboard box, but you can obviously play it on any other box, table or chair, so don't worry about multiplayer cardboard requirements. The question is, how does this translate into the gameplay?
The game has 5 very different modes providing totally different experiences.First up is Tap Runner, which is very likely the mode that will captivate players the most. The premise is very simple, the player must race 3 opponents on a 2D plane filled with obstacles. So far, so normal. This is where the fun starts: run by tapping with your left and right hand alternately and jump by tapping harder. Coordination and timing are key to winning races, since the various obstacles will require you to slow down, balance yourself on a tightrope, jump hurdles, avoid energy balls that shock and stun you, jump from swinging ropes and slopes, enter boost circles, etc…
Obviously in addition to running faster, dodging the right obstacles and taking the best alternate routes when available will lead you to victory, so you have to time your taps just right in order not to jump too soon or too late, run right into a ball of energy or get squashed by a huge pilar. Unfortunately (and somewhat predictably) with the Wii remote being used in such an odd fashion, it's very sensitive, so before you get the controls right you'll be jumping a lot when you just want to run. After a few tries and some quick adjustments in the options you'll be just fine if you don't bang on the box too hard. Which is why the game is called Let's Tap instead of Let's Bang (no double entendre intended). Tap Runner has 16 different tracks offering some replay value for players who like to get high scores, but the biggest incentive is no doubt the multiplayer, which is a blast and bound to liven up parties. Even when players can't get the controls right, Tap Runner creates such a competitive aura, you'll be wishing your friends do terrible when balancing on the tight ropes and tapping furiously to beat your mates when filling up a balloon that'll blow up and project you along the course. The simple graphic style filled with neon like lights contrasting with the black backgrounds fit the tap running frenzy wonderfully.
Next up is Rhythm Tap, which is pretty much Donkey Konga. Comprised of 16 catchy and upbeat songs (including the now famous Let's Tap main theme), players have to tap in timing with the circles appearing on screen indicating light, medium, heavy or continuous taps. The simple but effective background works as an equalizer showing you the intensity of your taps and add to the general acid trip feeling that runs in the whole game. Funny thing about this mode though: you can't lose. If you don't tap at all, the music will just keep playing, which is good if you want to use it as a jukebox, but if you just tap continuously you won't be punished for it either and you'll still do combos. Additionally, any tap will do, regardless of its intensity, although you'll be rewarded with more points if you tap correctly, which is they way to go to reach the highest ranks. Still, the great techno and j-pop tracks make this mode addictive and the well placed taps mesh really well with the songs specially if you're playing simultaneously with friends, when can make a damn cool sounding tapping "symphony". Just because you can't lose doesn't mean you can't have fun.
Silent Blocks is pretty much a simplified game of Jenga Blocks, a cursor scrolls through each block, tap to choose which block you want to pull, then choose the direction where you want to pull it and tap to take it out. The speed and strength with which you tap affect how the blocks move, so you have to be careful not to rattle and break apart the whole tower. Silent Blocks has 3 variations, in the first mode you simply have to take away all the blocks without letting the item on top drop or the tower collapse. As you progress, the towers get higher and obviously harder and some obstacles, such as a block with a timer than can't be moved until the timer runs out. This mode can be played with as many friends as you want and while some might find it boring, others can just spend hours mellowing out with friends, cautiously stripping away the tower of its blocks with even the calm, soothing music indicating this is a relaxing part of the game.
The second mode of Silent Blocks is a tad more complex, now you need to get three or more blocks of the same color together to transform them into special blocks. Three red or blue blocks create a bronze block, three bronze create a silver one and so on through gold, ruby, pearl and diamond. This process is called alchemy and huge, satisfactory alchemy chains can be made, so while you're not required to think every move thoroughly, a little foresight to create chains will certainly help with creating special blocks in fewer moves, because each level has a set number of moves that can be done before it moves on to the next level. While this mode is single player only, the third one is pretty much a VS mode of the latter where up to 4 players have to make a special block of a previously chosen color before the others do and if you destroy your tower, you have to start from scratch. Contrasting with the rest of Silent Blocks the music here is upbeat to emphasize the fact that it's a competition.
Bubble Voyager is a simple arcade shooter with a clean, simplistic sci-fi look filled with white and a few vibrant colors. While your character constantly moves forward you must tap gently for him to go upward diagonally and stronger to shoot the various obstacles in your way. Avoid mines, destroy asteroids and pick up power ups and stars for points to make your way through the levels, each one with a landing pad at the end, where you must carefully tap until you land for bonus points and a health recharge. Then lift off for another voyage, always with increasing difficulty, new obstacles like mines that cause chain explosions or enemies that weigh you down but also with new weapons showing up along the way. A neat detail is that the levels don't have any vertical limits, but if you try to stay on the borders of the screen to avoid everything (tsk tsk) you'll get shot down. In Bubble Voyager's multiplayer mode the players battle each other on a fixed screen pretty much like in Asteroids, with your ship constantly rotating, you tap when you want to go in the faced direction and tap harder to shoot. Not only do you have to battle your friends, you also have to be careful of oncoming asteroids and power ups or traps that will be instrumental in the outcome of the match, so while it's a very simple concept, it can be pretty hectic and entertaining.
The last mode, Visualizer, is pretty odd, even by Let's Tap standards. This is as non-game as it gets, you have five different visualizers to choose from and by tapping in specific sequences (like light-light-light-strong-medium) a different effect is produced with an indication of what the sequence was. In Fireworks, the camera soars above a city and (you guessed it) tapping launches fireworks with sequences creating different shapes, in Paint you (brace yourselves) paint simple things like umbrellas and flowers, usually accompanied by a short animation. In the River scenario you can just relax looking at a beautiful spot of water with all sorts of fish swimming by, when you tap you make ripples in the water and sequences show specific fish in the bottom of the screen like a koi. Su-Mi is like Paint, except you paint a sumi-e (a known Japanese style, sumi is the ink used for painting a sumi-e) and the remaining mode of Visualizer is completely different and even out of place, you have a lot of balls lying around and have to tap to make them jump and fall inside some cylinders, as you fill the cylinders, they grow in capacity or multiply.
Let's Tap is a very original and conceptually ambitious game that proves that simple and time tested game design can turn into something totally new with a radical change in control and while the simplicity of the controls makes the game accessible to everyone (including penguins), the arcade side of the game with high scores and medals will interest seasoned gamers. The simplistic, but very charismatic graphic design with huge contrasts and vibrant colors certainly reminds of a SEGA of old and Tetsuya Mizuguchi's unique style going well in hand with the electrifying track list that doesn't stop short of the drug-like addictive main theme.
And while we praise the game and give it credit for its boldness and fun times it provides, there's no denying that the game has shortcomings. Visualizer is an interesting concept, but one that will most likely go unused after a few tries and Rhythm Tap, fun as it is for a while, its biggest asset is the soundtrack, so coupled with the sense of disconnection created by the fact that you can just tap randomly it will probably get old quickly. Silent Blocks will most likely be played sporadically or when you're hungover, so that leaves Tap Runner and Bubble Voyager as the two modes that will probably beat the rest in player interest. If you have friends over though, Let's Tap gets an injection of replay value, because it's simply a blast to play with others, especially since it's so easy to pick up and play.The language is not a barrier at all, as there's very little text in the game and even some English here and there, but with the game hitting North America and Europe this Summer and according to rumour, not at full price,
Bottom line, Yuji Naka and his studio Prope certainly delivered a surprisingly fun and original title, and it's commendable that they opted to have 5 solid and original modes than a myriad of boring mini games, just to inflate the game. It's a game that probably won't hold the players' interest for long asides for the occasional get together or party, but it's a blast while it lasts.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Let's Tap is proof that the Wii remote still has much to give and so does Prope. Great fun and perfect for parties, although it's a very small game, it's originality carries it through.
Very original and bold
Great fun, especially in multiplayer
Language barrier pretty much nonexistant
Gets old fast
Prepare for joint pain