Right when you thought no more notable games would come out for the Wii, Nintendo decided to surprise us with “Rhythm Heaven Fever,” a deceptively simple rhythm game with a wonderfully oddball sense of style. While most rhythm games these days are about dancing or pretending to be a rock star with a fake guitar, “Rhythm Heaven Fever” takes the concept of a rhythm game and strips it down to its bare essentials, making it purely about timing button presses correctly, which it manages to make really enjoyable.
Rhythm Heaven Fever
The controls in “Rhythm Heaven Fever” could not be simpler: Press the A button. Want more complexity? Occasionally you’ll have to hit the A and the B button at the same time. That’s it. There are no other buttons to hit, no motion control, nothing. In this sense, anyone could play this game. Whether they would do well is an entirely different story. While it’s tempting to think this would make the game too easy, “Rhythm Heaven Fever” offers a surprising amount of variety and challenge out of such a simple control scheme.
“Rhythm Heaven Fever” is essentially a mini-game collection, but merely labeling it as such would be doing it a disservice to how original it is. Each mini-game challenges your sense of rhythm in a different way, and each one has an endearingly quirky and nonsensical premise to base the challenge on.
For example: In one mini-game, two dogs are in dogfighter airplanes playing badminton with each other. Just go with it. One dog will hit the shuttlecock to you and you have to return it at the right time by pressing A. Sounds easy enough, but then the dog will mix it up by making an audio cue indicating that he’s going to lob it, and you’ll have to delay your return swing. The badminton-rally-in-the-sky will go faster and faster, and your partner will begin to mix between the lob and the normal hit more quickly in order to throw off your timing. Soon, clouds will obscure the vision of both planes, forcing you to rely strictly on audio cues to get by, which becomes a nerve-wracking challenge. Adjusting your reflexes to the timing cues becomes frantic and intense, and it feels so rewarding if done well enough.
Each miscue in a mini-game counts against you, and enough miscues will have the game force you to try again to do better. This is frustrating at first, but it’s a satisfying feeling to watch your reflexes improve on each go. Most mini-games offer a reasonable amount of difficulty, in which it’s not too difficult to succeed but very hard to do outstandingly. If very few errors are made, a “Superb” medal is awarded, which unlocks secret mini-games and other extras. Unfortunately, the margin of error to get these medals is really slim, making it difficult to see all the content.
A lot of the frustration in the challenge is offset by the ridiculously charming presentation. The art style is simplistic and cartoony — filled with vibrant colors and thick black outlines to all the drawings — which matches the tone of the game. Couple that with catchy pop melodies in each mini-game, and you’ve got yourself quite the endearing game.
With over 50 mini-games, “Rhythm Heaven Fever” gives plenty of game for a reasonable price of $30. With so many mini-games, there will definitely be a good deal that feel either underwhelming or too frustrating, but on the whole, there are more hits than misses. “Rhythm Heaven Fever” epitomizes the phrase “less is more.” It’s the opposite of complicated, yet it offers its own charming brand of challenge and style like no other game on the market, and for that it’s easily recommendable.