Mentioning rhythm games in the same sentence as the Nintendo DS fills us with glee. The handheld had some absolute corkers, from the gloriously silly Rhythm Paradise to the highly addictive Elite Beat Agents.
Rhythm Thief and the Emperor's Treasure attempts to bring the tap-tap-tapping genre to Nintendo 3DS, with plenty of music-based mini-games and shenanigans at the ready.
While the gameplay is pretty slick, it's the incredible mix of 2D and 3D visuals that really had us going. The cut-scene effects convinced us that stereoscopic 3D visuals may not be just a fad after all.Empire
You are Raphael, an everyday Paris-dwelling child whose mother has died and whose father disappeared without a trace a few years ago. However, Raphael has a mysterious double life that involves him stealing precious works of art through dance.
It's as barmy as it sounds, and it's all backed up with Professor Layton-style visuals and exploration, and rhythm mini-games that range from simply dancing in the streets of Paris to robbing artefacts from the Louvre.
The game looks absolutely fantastic, with 2D anime visuals in 3D environments during cut-scenes and cel-shaded characters during mini-games. It's strange and beautiful, really showing off what the 3DS can do.
The mini-games are quirky and clever, with plenty of variety of silliness on show. You'll find you need to use a variety of control methods, from the touchscreen to the gyroscope to simply pressing the buttons.
There are also short and sweet micro-games, which last only a few seconds or so and all involve using sound to determine how to open locks and the like.Beat this
Of course, it wouldn't be much of a rhythm game without a great soundtrack to back it up, and fortunately Rhythm Thief doesn't stumble.
The game's soundtrack is a real toe-tapper, with music that suits each mini-game and scenario perfectly. But it's the sound effects that really keep the action flowing, with gutsy bangs and thwacks that make you feel like your tapping is really infiltrating Raphael's world.
Sound is used in a number of side-quests too, as you attempt to find and record sound effects around the world and use them to forge paths.
The overmap of Paris is like a cross between Professor Layton and Super Mario, with nodes connected together by lines of passage that open up hand-drawn environments on the bottom screen. Brilliantly, it's based on a real-life model of the city.Beat down
For all its charm, personality, and quirkiness, Rhythm Thief has quite the list of flaws.
The scoring system is utterly broken. It attempts to emulate the ranking system seen in Elite Beat Agents, but messes it up rather significantly.
You can play terribly all the way through a mini-game and then do well for the last 30 seconds and get a rank A, and you can play perfectly until the last five seconds and get a rank B. It makes no sense.
Then there's the repetition. For the first few hours you'll be getting all new content, but from then on both the puzzles and the mini-games start to get recycled.
The game is ridiculously easy, too, with barely any skill needed to pass any test. The various fetch-quests are a prime example - the game will tell you to find a certain object or sound in Paris, but then signpost exactly where it is and give you no challenge whatsoever.
But you'll overlook a lot of this thanks to the game's winning style.
It exudes a certain groovy charm that's currently unmatched on 3DS, and with a good deal of replay value - from marathon mini-games to two-player battles to a brilliant use of StreetPass - there's plenty that will keep you coming back.Rhythm Thief and the Emperor's Treasure may not be perfect, but it's a jolly good start. We can't wait to see Raphael become the next big thing on 3DS.