Orgarhythm review for PS Vita

Platform: PlayStation Vita
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Neilo/Acquire
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: Local/Ad Hoc Only
ESRB: E10+

The more of Orgarhythm I play, the more unsure I am about my feelings towards it. In some circumstances, this could be a good thing — who doesn’t want a game that challenges your perceptions of it as you get further in? Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those circumstances. Rather, as I play through, I’m conflicted between being completely baffled by it, and finding myself bored out of my mind.

The bafflement comes because Orgarhythm really isn’t a game that makes itself accessible to newcomers. When you start the game, you’re not given any context for what’s happening, and it makes no effort to explain to you what to do.

Now, neither of these things completely cripples Orgarhythm, nor does their absence make it impossible to enjoy the game. If you open up the manual, you’ll find that there is, in fact, a backstory to the game – something involving feuding brother gods of light and darkness who apparently have chosen to resolve their differences via dance. Likewise, it’s not as if Orgarhythm’s mechanics are that hard to figure out – you tap the screen in time with the beat. There are different ways you can approach the tapping, of course, but generally, if you’re able to keep time, you’ll probably figure most things out.

But it’s not as if anything in the game is self-evident. I wouldn’t have known the story was included in the manual, for example, if it hadn’t been for the fact that I saw it referenced elsewhere. Similarly, while there is a tutorial, you have to go out of your way to play through it — it’s not a part of the core single-player campaign, and it’s down in the main menu next to Options. Even worse, it doesn’t really explain everything. In all honesty, I’ve played Orgarhythm for several hours now, and I’m still not entirely clear on how everything works.

That said, in those moments when I do have a handle on what’s going on (or, at least, when I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on), I find that, more often than not, I’m kind of bored. It really shouldn’t be this way. At the start, Orgarhythm seems like it has a fair amount going for it: vivid colours, engaging beats, and the light god has some pretty funky dance moves.

As the game progresses, however, it all starts feeling more repetitive. I know the same could be said for most games of this ilk — a key component of rhythm is, you know, repetition — but it seems like it’s particularly bad in this case. You just dance along the same, predetermined path each time, and you move at the same speed regardless of how well you do. You can die, of course, and get sent back to the beginning of the level (did I mention there are no save points within levels? Because there aren’t.), but beyond that, you don’t have a whole lot of input into what happens.

Pretty soon, the colors that looked vivid at first just seem to blend together — not a good thing, considering that when you engage opposing forces, there’s no other way to tell the sides apart. The beats that were fun and engaging gradually start sounding the same… except for some of the boss battles, when they’re abandoned in favor of slightly more avant-garde (read: tuneless) selections. And those funky moves? Still fun to watch, but it’s impossible to feel much of a connection to them when you realize they happen regardless of what you do.

Ultimately, the more I think about it, the more I realize that my strongest feeling toward Orgarhythm isn’t bafflement or boredom; it’s disappointment. Disappointment that a game that seems tailor-made for the Vita, with its OLED touch screen, doesn’t fully take advantage of the system’s features. Disappointment that a game being released in 2012 doesn’t have any sort of online component that could help mix things up a little (the co-op and 2 vs 2 modes support only local, ad hoc multiplayer). And, above all else, disappointment that a game could borrow so heavily from both Patapon and Pikmin, yet not have any of the charm of either. Considering that Patapon and Patapon 2 are both available in the Vita’s PSP store, you’re better off saving your money and just picking up both of those instead.

Grade: C-