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E3 06: Elite Beat Agents

Don't ask us why, but music games seem to have more personality, on the whole, than just about any others. Without a big bulky guy with a gun or a group of perky teens out to save the world to rely on, things seem to get weird - fast. Whether or not the songs are original or top hits, if there's a story you're guaranteed to be swimming in bizarre characters, styling art and that rarest of things in games: an actual sense of humor. Elite Beat Agents follows this path beautifully.

Telling the tale of a group of Men in Black who coach people through their problems with the healing power of Top 40 music, Elite Beat Agents embraces a manga storytelling style. The fact that it fills every square inch of the DS' top screen with bizarre, hilarious, barely-animated characters is its real appeal. Whether you're doing great or sucking it up, the top screen reflects it, with characters reacting to the situation dictated entirely by how well you can tap and slide dots on the bottom in time to the music.

In fact, it's totally plausible that you'll want to play this game not for the actual experience of the play, but mainly to watch its demented cutscenes. The problem there is that you really have to watch the replay once you beat the level, as you're going to have to keep your eyes on the ever-decreasing circles to make sure you can tap the screen in time to actually win.

That's a small complaint, though, for a game that delivers the saga of a babysitter bent on seducing her boyfriend but is trapped in a house with two screaming runts. If you don't manage to change the diapers and get the kids to sleep, there's no honey - that guy's going to walk right out the door. It sounds boring, but between the cheering of the MIB squad and the insanity of the animation, it's so over-the-top that it just plain works. That's just one scenario; the game is undoubtedly going to provide many more messed-up stories when it hits the DS later this year.

May 12, 2006

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