Casual Game: Rhythm Heaven
It’s all in the wrist!
This game can be categorised under the genre rhythm action, which Ian Bogost mentions in How to do things with Videogames (Bogost, 32). When playing Rhythm Heaven, “you see, feel, and hear the musical patterns in a song that otherwise go unnoticed, blending into the overall flow and feel of its melody, harmonies, and rhythm,” (33). According to Bogost, “the game bears much similarity to Dance Dance Revolution or Rock Band. But Rhythm Heaven does away with the natural mappings between instruments and their rhythms, replacing the visuals and player interactions with arbitrary, often absurd fictional skins,” (34-35).
True to Bogost’s words, each level of Rhythm Heaven has it’s own story. Each level (minus the mega mixes) are completely independent from each other. Here are all of the levels laid out chronologically:
As you can see, none are the same! Each level posses a new character, a new rhythm, and a new song. Unlike Guitar Hero, Rhythm Heaven’s songs do not directly correlate with the characters or performance. In fact, all of the characters were imagined in order to fit the music and have little to with the actual performance of music. They each have their own plot line and their own tactics of expressing music. One level may have two scientists in love throwing flasks at each other, while another level takes the player into outer space where he or she must shoot down enemy ships in time to the music. Unlike Guitar Hero, this game allows the player to act “simultaneously as actor and as instrument,” (35). Really, it’s all in the wrist! You must know how to flick the wrist in time to the music. You must then connect that to the actions of the characters on the screen. If you figure out how to put the two together, you can conquer every level!
Another part of the game that makes it stand out is how it punishes the player for messing up. The game makes it clear when you fail to align to a specific rhythm, because it makes a distinct sound and the character that you’re playing exhibits a negative reaction.
For example, in “Lockstep” the character is noticeably out of sync with everyone else when you mess up. The character is hit by the other characters and the player hears a loud smacking sound.
Other characters make funny faces of exasperation or cringe when the player messes up. This is notable, because every level and every character’s reaction is unique.