WE GOT THE BEAT
To no one’s surprise, I made good on my threat of dropping Dementium like a painfully bad habit; flipping it on eBay for a game that truly is worth the investment of cash and time: Elite Beat Agents.
EBA has you traipsing around the globe, looking for people in trouble and helping them out with the Elite Beat Agents’ (a trio of do-gooders under the direction of ‘Commander Kahn’) power of dance. Yes, that’s right…you help the Agents’ resolve issues with dancing. From a pair of blonde beauties stranded on a deserted island, to the troubled love-life of a recently bankrupt oil tycoon, no problem seems to be to big or small for the Agents to take care of with their funky moves. With a high level of loveable Japanese quirkiness (and excellent, cartoony visuals), you’d be right in guessing that this is one of the most interesting titles to yet make it onto the DS.
STYLUS TAPPIN’ WHILE FOOT TAPPIN’
Considering all of the rhythm games that have appeared since PaRappa the Rapper made the genre official, it’s quite surprising that any new rhythm game could feel even remotely fresh. However, EBA actually does, and the main reason for this has to be attributed to the stylus-exclusive control. Tapping on numbered circles and tracing speed-controlled paths in time with the beat makes for some seriously fun gameplay; gameplay that anyone should be able to pick up and instantly enjoy. In fact, it kinda reminds me of Gitaroo-Man, although a hell of a lot more fun than that particular cult favorite. (Speaking of which, I can totally see a “Gitaroo-Man DS” title working quite well.)
I’ve been surprised at how difficult the game can be in the later stages (even on the easy mode), but also surprisingly, it has never felt overly frustrating to me. Even though the more difficult stages require repeated playings in order to get a handle on the speed and timing of the beats you need to successfully tap, the game is just lighthearted enough to never feel too overbearing or heavy-handed. Put simply, it just remains fun throughout.
DANCING WITH THE STARS?
Even though it’s relative to one’s musical tastes, I found the tracks that comprise the game’s soundtrack to be quite a disappointment. EBA does its best to have a little something for everybody (ala the Karaoke Revolution series), but the vast majority of the songs just feel too low-rent and too much like filler. (Ashley Simpson & Avril Lavigne; b-side material from Hoobastank… Ugh.) And even though there’s some heavy compression going on that hurts the sound quality of the tunes, the game features 19 songs in all, and that’s pretty damn impressive — especially for a tiny DS cart already teeming with so many voice-samples, sound effects and wonderful graphics.
This is easily one of the best titles available for the DS, and here’s hoping that there will be a big enough budget for a sequel with a much more interesting set of licensed tunes.