As you might be able to tell from the abstract trailer below (skip to 1:58 if you want to get to the actual gameplay), Orgarhythm is a game that doesn’t concern itself with following the norm. Its eccentric design is quirkiness to the max, calling to mind many of our favorite weird Japanese games: Patapon, Gitaroo Man, and Pikmin are all spiritual grandfathers to the oddness that is Orgarhythm. But this rhythm-real-time-strategy isn’t some cheap knock-off: it’s being developed by Neilo, a studio founded by alumni of amazing music games Rez and Space Channel 5.
Music games aren't really known for their story, but Orgarhythm gives it the ol’ college try. Two divine brothers, the God of Light and the God of Darkness, have inhabited a planet and divvied it up to create life above or below the surface. The conniving God of Darkness created an army of destructive creatures, which started terrorizing the God of Light’s loyal followers. It’s up to you to command Light’s legions to fight back the attackers with the power of music.
The gameplay has you assuming the role of the God of Light, though you don’t directly control him as he sways through each level on rails. Instead, you’re tasked with managing his forces: red, blue, and yellow minions who prance and march around the God as he walks. Commands must be given in time to the beat of the soundtrack’s ethereal tunes, which sound like a mix of tribal, ambient, and rock songs. Each tap of the touchscreen moves a step forward in the unit’s menu; once the order’s been given, a swipe where you want them on the screen tells them where to patrol.
But things aren’t that simple: the units all follow a rock-paper-scissors elemental hierarchy, similar to the starting elements of Pokemon: water (blue) beats fire, fire (red) beats earth, and earth (yellow) beats water. You’ll need to send the appropriate units to fight incoming color-coded baddies, lest they all get wiped out before you can get into the groove. To add another layer of strategy, attacks are also split into three categories: simply melee swings, heavy-duty catapults, or light projectiles. These might be easy to parse through in an ordinary RTS, but directing your forces in time to the rhythm is quite demanding on your concentration.
The dynamic music changes as your army levels up, so that additional instruments chime in to the music. To level, all you have to do is maintain your timing to the beat – musically-inclined players will be bolstering their armies in no time, but one slip up and you might find yourself with a dwindling number of troops.
While the game’s aesthetic is a bit rough around the edges (let’s be honest – it looks like it would’ve run just fine on a PS1), it’s not about the visuals with Orgarhythm. Rather, it’s those zen moment of tapping and swiping the screen to the music, when your body is almost acting instinctually, that make this weird rhythm-RTS so appealing.
Look for it to hit the PS Vita sometime this summer, with 12 stages at launch and more planned for DLC.