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It’s a good sign when a game controlled with finger taps has music we’d happily tap our fingers to. Yes, Let’s Tap’s big ‘thing’ is the fact that it’s a game played with a single finger. On a technical level it works. You navigate menus in Morse code style – one tap for next, two taps for select – while setting the thing up is as simple as placing the remote face down on a surface.
Above: How it's done
There are five games within Let’s Tap, and Rhythm Tap is where the musical marvels are heard. Looking like a simplified Donkey Konga and playing like Guitar Hero reinvented for a one-fingered man, it has you tapping a conveyor belt of colored blobs. Hitting the blobs wouldn’t trouble a nodding desk toy, but hitting with the right intensity – soft, medium or hard – takes superhuman control. It never feels exact differentiating between soft and medium, but patience sees those high scores gradually climb.
It makes more sense with multiple players. Although you compete for the highest scores, by giving each tapper a different ‘blob belt’ there’s a hint of co-operation in bringing a track to life with your choreographed finger work. Not unlike the late ’90s tap sensation Tap Dogs (or Stig-of-the-Dump-meets-fresh-out-of-drama-school-nightmare Stomp), the four tapping fingers layer into another music track. It’s homemade Dolby surround sound, albeit a fleshy 3.1.
Tap Runner is the most traditionally ‘gamey’ of the five activities. Gentle taps run, a hard tap jumps. New furniture is added to each successive track – tightropes, electro barriers, escalators, slides – making sure that the 16 races don’t grow old fast. It helps that the racers themselves are an endearing bunch – a gang of neon-colored Morph lookalikes that trip, stumble and get electrocuted with comic gusto. And the robo-voice that begins the race with an angry “DON’T MOVE!”? Absolutely terrifying.
Playing Tap Runner you begin to get a strange vibe off Let’s Tap – it feels light, frothy and throwaway, yet somehow maintains an addictive one-more-go quality. We’d liken it to WarioWare’s bonus minigames: often trifling asides, but also often the reason those games are played for 50+ hours. In effect, Let’s Tap trims back WarioWare’s girth and hedges its bets on these asides.
Lucky, then, that the third game, Silent Blocks, is another time sink winner. Given a hexagonal Jenga tower, the idea is to pluck pieces to allow three or more like-colored discs to connect and, via the magic of ‘alchemy’, transform into a more precious block. Three reds become a bronze, three bronze a silver, three silver a gold, three gold a platinum and so on. It can take a good 15 minutes to reach a platinum but upping the goal to a later color can turn light-hearted fun into a grueling endurance test.
It’s not that Silent Blocks is particularly tough or clever (although the ‘tap once to select block, light taps to remove block’ system is very elegant) but it has that same hypnotic quality as WarioWare: Mega Party Games’ Wobbly Bobbly or Smooth Move’s Star Nose. Is it the gentle music that lulls you into a trance or the happiness at seeing multiple alchemies chain together? Hard to tell. But then again, if you could nail down what makes the multiplayer greats great, there wouldn’t be multiplayer bads.
The remaining two games are less brilliant and, in the case of Visualizer, not really a game at all. Bubble Voyager is a side-scrolling blaster in which you tap to gain altitude through a maze of mines. It’s fine, but doesn’t hook you like the others – and the Asteroids-apeing multiplayer mode is a bit of a confusing mess. Visualizer sees you tapping to cause visual effects on screen. Choreographing fireworks, directing sumi-e1 strokes, splashing around in a koi carp pool – it all seems a tad directionless.
We’re in two minds over Let’s Tap’s financial value. The grumpy left side of the brain – the one that deals with tax returns and buying sensible shoes – sees two duds and three gems for a hefty price. The silly right side – the one that deals with unicorns and giggling – reasons that multiplayer fun on this scale is so rare that it should be embraced. Let’s Tap’s wackiness is hugely endearing, but there’s no escaping the likelihood that in these difficult economic times it would have proven more popular as a few brilliant WiiWare games rather than one mixed full release.
Jun 16, 2009