Are you ready, Fondue? *woof woof* We’ve got a game to review!
My father was a game reviewer. He would anonymously submit his writing to big magazines. Nobody ever knew who it was, but they all recognised his style and he became known as the Phantom Gamer. One day he mysteriously disappeared and stopped submitting, and I’m trying to solve the mystery by reading his old game reviews and looking for clues. He also left me this coin. I don’t know what it means yet, but I’m sure it’s the key to everything. To get into the museum holding my father’s old game reviews, I have to submit my own, so let me tell you all about Rhythm Thief on 3DS.
The gameplay is not as straight-forward as the average rhythm game. I’d played the demo of this game and it was just two mini-games with no context. I thought it was a bit of fun, but nothing substantial. The full game feels completely different, with the majority of it being in the point-and-click adventure format. Rhythm Thief is a game with a rich story, driven by touch screen navigation and the occasional buttons in mini-games. Most of the time you are touching the screen, reading dialogue, looking for clues or solving touch screen puzzles. Then suddenly a rhythm game will come up to compliment the next big story scenario.
It’s a good thing you spend a lot of time in the overworld, because the art in this game is phenomenal. Very clean, polished drawings carry a consistent expressive style, and many subtle details are scattered about to reward you for poking randomly. If something looks interesting, there’s probably a coin or musical note hidden behind it. I actually preferred the adventure elements to the rhythm games in this for that reason, it really sparked my curiosity. The adventure and rhythm elements are nicely spaced apart so you can get lost in the story, and a rhythm mini-game feels exciting when you get to it. If it was constant rhythm I’d get very tired of it, or constant adventure I’d get a bit antsy. It strikes a good balance to maintain curiosity.
More than the gameplay itself, I was excited to see the ridiculous new scenarios the game came up with. Impressing a chef to keep your disguise, breaking into a museum to avoid cameras, biting police officer’s butts because they are tasty, and playing soccer in dangerous places to get answers. All ridiculous things that made perfect sense in the story context, and give this game an unapologetic charm.
The games themselves are very simple with almost no depth. You just tap the screen or press buttons exactly when the game tells you. Just like every rhythm game ever made, really. Some people like these but I personally don’t get the appeal of rhythm games. They have no game mechanics whatsoever and you just follow prompts. How is this a genre? There is nothing to learn or think about. When I’m listening to a song I quite often have my own favourite bits, and it feels limiting to press things when the game tells you. I can not stand this type of gameplay, but it was too easy to really be a bother, and I still had fun with it. This is mostly because of the vibrant visual style and great music.
The controls in the mini-games are actually quite good and have a lot of variety. Some involve pressing the A and B buttons, some have touch screen inputs, and some use the gyro of the 3DS. They all work as they should, clean and fast, but I had ONE issue with a nightmare flying gyro mini-game. It was just very difficult to understand what the game wanted me to do, with multiple visual cues, and only one of them being real. Once I learned how to play it though, it was consistent. There are just some visual / audio cues that are awkward at first, but when you find out how to do them it’s a very easy game.
“I’m not convinced!”
Firstly, fuck you. You have to live your life and play every game you have access to. Secondly, this game has incredibly high production values. More than you’d expect for an early 3DS game from SEGA thrown in for free in the Humble Bundle. That is a really bad stigma I’m afraid the game is stuck with, but it allowed me to play it and really appreciate it properly. The whole presentation of this game is top tier. The anime quality cutscenes being in full 3D really impressed me, because I’ve never seen anything like it. The music is also EXTREMELY good, with a great upbeat videogame feeling applied to a more classical, jazzy style. It’s a very expressive game and I feel a bit bad about getting this so cheap. There’s no value on art these days.
I don’t even like rhythm games and still loved Rhythm Thief. The story was good enough to let me overlook a genre I hate and have some fun. It’s a very charming story with great art, music, and simple gameplay that is unspectacular, but doesn’t really do anything wrong. There’s a lot of replay value in the rhythm games if you like that sort of thing, and ridiculous scores to get. Myself, I can’t tell the difference between “Great” and “Perfect” in these games. I just tap when I feel like it to the music, so I can never take high scores in these games seriously, but the incentive is there and the initial story took me 10 hours which is not bad for a touch screen adventure like this. This game is worth playing through for the story experience, because there are some nice twists and interesting situations. I’ve never been to Paris but it makes it seem like a magical place, with detailed backgrounds, interesting people, stunning light displays and an air of mystery. I really enjoyed it, and Rhythm Thief is a great example of videogames being a strong way to tell a story. Now to submit this to the museum’s library without being spotted…
3, 2, 1…