Orgarhythm is a maddening, often frustrating experience that left me wondering what I was doing wrong. Its tutorials don't adequately prepare you for the real missions and the bosses tend to be cheap to the point of unfair. And yet, despite all of the anger I had while playing Orgarhythm, it's easy to see how this game could have been done right. It would only take a few tweaks to turn this into one of the most exciting PS Vita games of the year.
Never heard of Orgarhythm? Don't feel bad, you're not alone. This Vita-exclusive snuck onto the PlayStation Network at the height of the holiday season. To make matters worse, it's not a game that lends itself well to short descriptions and simple review quotes. It also isn't very pretty, looking more like a PSP game than something you would buy on Sony's new handheld.
As the title suggests, it's a rhythm game that mixes in some light real-time strategy elements. The closest analog is another portable series, the delightful Patapon franchise. You issue commands through a series of beats, which means that it's important keep the rhythm going to pay close attention to the stage's music. This is where the similarities end. Orgarhythm tinkers with the rules in some substantial (and problematic) ways.
You play the God of Light, a slow moving deity who commands three types of eager followers. Your subjects are color coded, making it easy to see that red is for fire, blue is for water and yellow is for earth. This is an elaborate game of Rock Paper Scissors, with water defeating fire, fire scorching earth and earth overcoming water. And just in case you forget that, a guide is permanently lodged at the top right of the screen.
Instead of pounding out button combinations, here you hit the screen three times to issue commands. It's actually very simple. Your first tap is to start the action. From there you tap which of the three colors you want to command. Finally, you pick one of several attack variations (fists, arrows, catapult, etc.). But even after all that, you're still not done. Now that you know who is going to attack and how, it's time to draw a line giving your soldiers a path to follow.
The trick is to tap these commands on the precise beat. Doing this will level your troops up and make the fight a whole lot easier. But don't get too cocky, because it's easy to fall from level 5 back down to 1. Eventually you'll figure out that quicker taps lead to speedier upgrades, so there is some skill involved in the game's unique combat system. There are also combos, which play into how many experience points you get at the end of each stage. Earn enough points and you'll unlock new add-on powers, giving the God of Light more energy, strength, defense, etc.
The God of Light is on a fixed path that never changes. In that sense, Orgarhythm feels a lot like an on-rail shooter. Our hero slowly makes his way past a bunch of enemies until coming face to face with the boss. These large monsters are the highlight of the game, finally giving players something new to look at. Unfortunately, the boss difficulty swings wildly and without warning. The first couple bosses aren't too bad, but there are a few that were cheap to the point of frustration. It's hard to believe the amount of hair pulling I did over the criminally unfair Holy Oratorio boss.
As intriguing as these bosses are, they also highlight one of the major problems with Orgarhythm. For whatever reason, this game doesn't believe in checkpoints. Dying in a stage (even at the very end) results in you retrying the map from the very start. It's on the third or fourth attempt that you realize just how painfully slow the God of Light is. I've seen paint drying faster than this guy. He doesn't care that he's being pelted by rocks and arrows; he'll take his sweet time strolling through these lengthy stages. It's at this point where everything starts to break down.
Orgarhythm is overflowing with interesting ideas that never quite come together. It's a real-time strategy game that steals mechanics from the rhythm genre. Too bad the gameplay is busted and the single-player story is so short. With a little tweaking (and a different price point), Orgarhythm could have been a real sleeper hit on the PS Vita!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!