I am a strong believer that the Vita is a perfect fit for rhythm games. Michael Jackson the Experience was a launch title on the system and while I wasn’t expecting to get much out of it really fell in love with the play style and the idea of music games on the Vita touch screen. Well my wishes must have been heard because less than a year later the Vita gets another rhythm game on the form of a hidden little gem called Orgarhythm. Now while this is a music game at heart, Orgarhythm is also a strategy game where you have to control units on the screen through the music. Combing music with RTS strategy is probably one of the most interesting game combinations I have ever head of and it really pays off into quite an interesting game.
The story is of two gods, one of light and one of darkness, that are brothers who are at war with each other. They each have three groups of worshipers that follow their every move and order. The story set up is fairly interesting but really there is no story telling in this game to speak of. The good thing about that though is that the story isn’t what makes this game fun. If this game had no story I still would have had a blast playing it on a purely mechanical level.
Orgarhythm uniquely blends real time strategy elements with the timing based skill of a music game. The entire game is played with the touch screen and there is no direct character control. The Warrior of Light is this dancing titan that moves across the screen automatically and just dancing like a fool the whole time. He is followed by three groups of worshipers that are color coded with red, yellow and blue. The enemies of the game follow the same color coordination and when sending men into battle you have to pay attention to these colors as they operate in a circle of effectiveness. For instance blue is strong against red but weak against yellow but red is strong against yellow. If you ever forget this pattern you have nothing to worry about as there is a diagram in the top right corner of the screen.
So the Warrior dances across the screen and enemies cross into his path and try to destroy him. He is defenseless so you have to rely on commanding the worshipers and intercept the attacking enemies before they can cause any major damage. The way you command the troops is to tap the screen to the beat that is constantly playing through the level. The better in tune to the beat you are the more you level up the squads and the more effective they become. The leveling mechanic however is weird. If you miss a beat you will drop down a level or if you keep missing you could drop all the way back to one. Your level also goes down after a long period of no use which can actually happen quite a few times so if you want to keep your level maxed out then you have to command your troops even when nothing is happening on screen. This brings up the strange pacing of the game. There are plenty of times where enemies aren’t flooding towards you and you are just left to watch your Warrior move across the screen and he is always moving very slowly. This never really bothered me because it gives you the chance to listen to the amazing soundtrack but it can cause some of the levels to drag. This brings us to the music itself.
Ogarhythm has one of the best soundtracks of the year! The music and mash up of genres is nothing short of amazing. From the start of the beautiful opening cinematic the music has this epic almost Lord of the Rings sound to it but also has some modern tones to it. There’s lots of percussion and strings in the beginning but as you progress through the levels the music gets more intense. At the end of each level you encounter a boss of some kind and here the music just explodes into an epic boss battle soundtrack. The music can change from a whimsical journey song to a heavy metal guitar battle song and just sounds awesome. It was hard not to have a big smile while engaged into the boss battles and listening to the soundtrack with headphones on. This whole game experience in general is better with headphones at all times. Some may find the music switches a little too drastic but I just loved all of the extravagance of it. The soundtrack is one to behold and worth a purchase if it ever sees a disc or digital release.
So to make any commands to the units you have to tap the Warrior of Light. This brings up four options to choose from. You can choose one of the three squads or the Warriors abilities himself. Once you click on your choice then the ability options are the next choice. The Warrior has abilities such as boosting defense, attack, or a simple healing power. The groups of warriors have attack options and more to unlock as you progress further into the game. They start off with basic brawling and upgrade to bows and arrows and even catapults. After you select the ability you want the soldiers to use you drag your finger to create and attack path that they will then follow and attack anyone who crosses it. The Warrior can’t attack himself as he just navigates the map so it’s up to you to move the worshipers around to intercept the oncoming enemies and prevent them from taking out the Warrior. There is also a versus and cooperative online mode but the games mechanics don’t feel like they are well suited for multiplayer and sticking to single player is probably for the best.
Orgarhythm has some simple environments and unimpressive character models that are accompanied by fantastic lighting and incredible wave effects that go along with the music. The music is not only felt but visualized on the screen by a wave pattern that is overlaid in the background and shakes the command menus. There are times where there is a lot going happening on the screen and when you get large groups battling each other it can get a little hectic but the game holds a steady frame rate and with all of the colors flashing and music pounding it still manages to be fun while the fighters clash. The boss battles are the most spectacular looking part of the game because the music not only picks up but so does the flashiness of the environment. The opening cinematic is one of the most beautiful videos I have ever seen and is worth watching more than once which is good because it is the first thing to play when you start the game.
Orgarhythm is a very unique gameplay experience that can be very compelling. The music alone makes this game worth playing but at the same time the blending of game genres is something to behold. There are plenty of upgrades to unlock and each level is scored with the game encouraging you to replay levels to try and do better. There is some definite length to the game so if it does grab you it can keep your busy for quite a while. Commanding the troops around the screen in tune with a beat is extremely satisfying when you are nailing perfect tempos and leveling up your soldiers. This feels like a music game for people who aren’t big rhythm game fans and need another hook to get them to play it and the strategy element really adds something new to the genre. I would love to see this expanded into a second game just to see what could be done with these types of mechanics. Probably one of the best things about the rhythm mechanics with this game is that they are all just combinations of three screen taps and it really just depends on the speed of the song so it’s fairly easy for anyone to get a working method down as long as they follow the beat.
Orgarhythm is a game that could easily be overlooked but if it is then that is a tragedy as there is nothing like this game out there right now. The Vita is a really strong fit with touch screen rhythm games and adding an element of real time strategy to the mix really shakes up both genres. While it has some slight pacing issues that shouldn’t be enough to draw attention away from this original game. If you own a Vita then you know the list of games is pretty low right now and Orgarhythm is a unique experience that anyone with a Vita should be willing to check out.