Rhythm and strategy games may not seem like the likeliest of bedfellows, but that didn’t stop developer Acquire from combining the two for its latest Vita effort, Orgarhythm. What’s even more surprising than this pairing is the fact that it largely works, taking the gameplay of an RTS and tempering it with timing-based controls of a rhythm game. This makes Orgarhythm one of the most original experiences on the handheld, but a few persistent issues keep it from being little more than a gaming novelty in the long run.
That’s not entirely a bad thing, however, as Orgarhythm’s novelty is its biggest strength. The game places you in the role of the God of Light, a divine being who resembles a Mayan priest. At your command are three distinct warrior tribes, each representing a traditional element (earth, fire, and water). It’s only a shame that Orgarhythm does very little to expand on this premise--outside of the gorgeous opening cinematic and some text in the tutorials, there’s no semblance of story in the title. To be fair, a game of this sort hardly needs a narrative to engage players, but including one would at least have framed the adventure with a sense of purpose.
It’s admirable that Acquire chose to fuse such disparate genres together to create a new experience, but the marriage isn’t always a happy one. It takes a bit of effort to wrap your head around Orgarhythm’s gameplay, which will come off as obtuse to those who have not already been following the game. Your avatar performs a slow tribal dance through each stage, automatically scrolling towards the boss waiting at the end. To deploy your troops, you tap the appropriate icon and drag your finger on their desired destination. Tapping to the beat also increases your level, allowing you to command more units at a time. The tutorials do an adequate job of explaining the basics, but even these don’t properly convey the game’s nuances, like the importance of leveling up and managing your soldiers, which can only be discovered through trial and error.
Likewise, tapping on the screen isn’t always an ideal way to play a strategy game. There are times when the battlefield will be inundated with warriors, obscuring your view of the icons and throwing you off the rhythm. This is hardly a game-breaking flaw; the only real detriment to missing the beat is a decrease in your level. Nevertheless, it proves that rhythm and strategy games are not exactly the most synergistic of genres.
That said, once the gameplay does click, Orgarhythm is a lot of fun. The music is varied and catchy, and the tempo changes often enough to keep you engaged in the experience. The elemental warriors also add a nice layer of depth to the gameplay, forcing you to consider type advantages when heading off adversaries. Each level also comes with three difficulty settings, encouraging players to replay them and further improve their scores.
Unfortunately, Orgarhythm is very short. The campaign is comprised of a scant twelve levels, which can be completed in a couple of hours. The title does offer local wireless multiplayer to compensate for this, and XSEED has already confirmed that more stages will be available later on as DLC. However, as it stands, there isn’t enough content in the game to justify its price.
While Orgarhythm is a bold attempt at melding the strategy of an RTS with the action of a rhythm game, it isn’t able to completely reconcile the two genres into a cohesive whole. The title is certainly fun, with a catchy soundtrack and a nice level of depth to its gameplay, but its short length and unusual premise make it difficult to recommend. Still, if rhythm games are your thing, Orgarhythm is a unique take on the style that will prove to be entertaining in spite of its shortcomings.