If we told you Orgarhythm was kind of like Patapon, would you suddenly be interested? See the PS Vita gets a lot of stick but there are games to play – you just need to look for them.
The unfortunate case of Orgarhythm, however, is that it’s not quite a must-play. Sorry if the Patapon comparison got your hopes up.
But the concept is largely the same: at the start of a level you begin with a small army, which marches on through the stage to then be used to combat different types of enemies by tapping along to a beat.
The key here is the elements of fire, earth, water – which you must carefully manage to overcome enemies of the opposing element. It’s unsurprisingly rock, paper, scissors in format: fire beats earth, earth beats water, water beats fire.
Your objective is to send your tiny armies off in the right direction to combat whatever foes are incoming, though the fixed camera does mean you can often be restricted from being properly prepared.
Commands are given first by selecting an element, then a unit class and, finally, ordering your units into position.
This is done in time with the backing beat of that level, however. Tap the PS Vita’s screen to create orders in time and you’ll level up, increasing your overall rank and – therefore – power.
When it all comes together, the mechanics in Orgarhythm are really great.
You’re even rewarded with rhythm action style text – ‘Cool!’, ‘Excellent!’ and whatever – and if you earn the most positive during the three-tap routine then the chosen element will bolster its ranks.
If you’re really skilled you can tap each three options in quick succession – which will require knowing your strategy before picking each item – to make faster orders on the battlefield; a practically mandatory method on later, harder missions.
It’s a great system that ties into the rhythm action nature of the game. As more orders are placed at once or your level and army ranks increase so, too, does the number of different elements in the music, building to a crescendo as the challenge increases.
And in isolation each of the different mechanics work well, enabling you to make fun, strategic decisions as you stomp through the level. Early on it’s empowering, but it’s in tougher missions where it really falls apart.
Your armies can only increase in size with more regular, more successful tri-tap combos, bolstering your troops to better tackle a variety of threats.
Unfortunately on tougher missions – where the speed of the beat is harder to match – the system falls to pieces. It becomes awkward to select units with great enough success to improve your own rank or your army’s size.
Visually it isn’t much to look at, but the fancy effects make up for that.
While this could seem to be down to the enforced challenge of the game, it is the clumsiness of the input that really frustrates. Inevitably you’re forced into making fast reactions and thoughts, but the three-tap method just doesn’t help for this.
This is doubly true when different types of enemies appear. While this is necessary for a game of this ilk, it can be so awkward combating some enemy types – the worst culprit being catapult units on raised platforms – that you’ll often find it unfair.
Each level has a string of different enemies to attack on a pre-determined route, meaning there’s plenty of reason to return and perfect a run if you really desired. The truth is, however, that you will in fact be forced to.
The biggest problem is the unreliability of your units. You may place a path for them to queue at – perhaps intending to block your enemy – but they’ll struggle to even stand in the right place. They often randomly give up and return to your central avatar too; a no-no in the heat of battle.
The boss fights are varied and often uniquely designed, but even these fall victim to poor unit AI. As circular arenas, you’re focused on a gradual grind while fending off more traditional enemy types, but the balancing act is just too much to handle.
It doesn’t help when your units will decide they want to take the opposite route around an obstacle too, slowing your progress greatly.
Those blue and yellow areas are the designated orders, but don’t often create the expected results.
It’s the more traditional units that pose a problem during each level, then. This is thanks, in part, to the finicky nature of the controls and the unmanageable pressure you’re put under.
No doubt a devoted player will find a masterful system underneath, and there are times – when it all comes together – that Orgarhythm proves just how brilliant and original the concept is.
But the majority of players will find them overwhelmed very early on, with the most unlikely to find the willpower to soldier on. It’s not just unfair, but difficult to control – and no game should claim that as an accolade.