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Created by Prope / Rated E / 1-4 Players / Wii Remote / MSRP $29.99
Review written by Ray

After leaving a legacy at SEGA with titles such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Nights into Dreams, and Phantasy Star Online, Yuji Naka’s departure from SonicTeam in 2006 to start his own game studio left us wondering what he would do next.

After teasing it as “the game that even penguins can play,” Let’s Tap was revealed as a collection of five minigames with a unique twist. It’s controlled by placing the Wii Remote face-down on a small box that you then tap with your hands. It’s a bizarre premise, and one I’ve been curious about for some time.

The first minigame, Tap Runner, is easily the best part of the package. Race against your friends to the finish line by tapping continuously while jumping over obstacles or ledges by tapping with more force. It’s very simple, but incredibly effective. It’s also one of the few games I’ve played where keeping a steady pace requires you to be calm – for tapping too hard will cause your character to jump and slow you down in the process. It’s basic platforming sprinkled with fun qualities from Sonic titles – such as jumping through speed hoops and bouncing from springs. The problem is that there are only sixteen courses, and with each one lasting around 30 seconds, you’ll find yourself wondering why they didn’t do more with such a successful formula.

As a side note, I have some major issues with how they handled the presentation of Tap Runner. The characters themselves feel like placeholders who eventually stuck around long enough to get shipped with the final version of the game, the single planet in the background is just plain boring, and the music is essentially a single four-beat measure on repeat that’s actually comprised of loops from Apple’s Garageband application.

Thankfully, the music featured in Rhythm Tap does not suffer the same fate. The songs are energetic, beat-heavy, and definitely in line with something from Dance Dance Revolution. This mode is your standard rhythm game and best described as a Donkey Konga clone – play with correct timing through soft, medium, or hard taps as indicated. It’s a decent mode, but it suffers from a few problems. For starters, now that there are truck-loads of Guitar Hero titles that everyone and their dog has played, Rhythm Tap feels pretty bland in comparison.

In addition, I feel its scoring system is severely flawed. Hitting the beat with the correct strength appears to have very little impact on your total score. I was already skeptical as to whether or not it was even being weighed since there’s no on-screen indicator to show if you actually used the correct amount of force. To test my theory, I played through an entire song with only light taps and still managed to receive an S-rank. Which is ridiculous, if you ask me. It’s like receiving an A-rank in Guitar Hero for playing all the wrong notes but with correct timing…

Silent Blocks is a bit of a disaster to me. By removing blocks from your stack, gravity can combine three of the same color to form chain reactions. It’s a simple puzzle game with a fair amount of strategy involved, but how this game benefits from its own tap controls is not very clear. While the Jenga-style gameplay involves removing blocks peacefully based on how you tap, the consistency of it never felt quite right to me. Sometimes gentle taps would slowly ease a piece out, sometimes harder taps would pluck it out, and sometimes doing either one would make it hang onto its surrounding blocks like velcro. It’s a pretty frustrating experience to get so far, only to lose it all when a block randomly decides to be a nuisance during extraction.

Aside from that, the tap controls only serve to slow down the experience. You select blocks by waiting for the moving cursor to eventually make its way to the one you want, and then wait again when the direction you want to pull the piece finally comes around to the side desired. It’s essentially a process of waiting for the game to give you the option you want, then tapping to select it. Is it functional? Yes. Does it enhance the tapping experience? Not at all. It would be better suited for a standard controller.

Bubble Voyager carries some decent arcade-style gameplay under its wings. In single-player mode it’s a horizontal shooter in which you tap gently to keep afloat, or tap firmly to fire a missle. The limited controls and very slow pace obviously made it too difficult for complicated situations such as boss battles, so the developers chose instead to make it one infinite journey to last through as long as you can. It’s a bit disappointing too, because I would much rather prefer a structured level order. Instead I’m left trying to debate if beating my hi-score will be worth it, knowing how long I’ll probably have to stay alive this time.

Multiplayer mode is a top down battle against each other, much like if a four-player game of Asteroids existed. It’s a much more entertaining game, and the controls are simple to learn but difficult to use effectively – making it a nice challenging battle. It’s certainly a throwback to simpler gaming times, and the character designs finally have something cool going for them.

And finally we have the Visualizer. Have you ever wanted to tap randomly and hope that you accidentally triggered cool things to happen? I can’t really say I have, which is why it’s difficult for me to play any one of the six different themes for more than a minute. It’s the epitome of ‘filler’ and one of the main reasons its easy to claim Let’s Tap as being nothing more than a polished group of tech demos. What’s more insulting is ‘Gem Game’. Which by all means is anything but a game – unless you consider Cup-n-Ball a game if you remove the ability to swing it yourself. The goal is to make a large pool of spheres spring off the ground by tapping and then hope that some might fall into the small containers floating in the air. What’s worse is that the requirement for ‘beating’ this ‘game’ is so absurd that I can’t possibly imagine anyone finishing it in under an hour.

While there’s certainly some things here to be enjoyed, Let’s Tap left me feeling a bit empty. For only five minigames, only a few are really worth spending any serious time on, and even those felt lacking in certain areas. I’m not sure what kept Naka from fully flushing out some of these ideas, as they seem intentionally held back. This title seems better suited as a download from the WiiWare service if it were at a lower price point, but since it is not, I can really only recommend it as a rental for the next time you’re together with friends.

Verdict: Feels like a polished set of tech demos still needing more love.

Reviewer’s Completion: all tap runner stages unlocked / gold medals on all tap runner stages / all rhythm tap songs unlocked / s-rank on all rhythm tap songs

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