Whatever your opinion about Nintendo's Wii console, few can argue it was a real game-changer. Encouraging scores of people to get into games who'd never picked up a controller in their lives, it was also a console with some seriously killer games - multiplayer platformer New Super Mario Bros. Wii, epic universe-spanning platformer Super Mario Galaxy and of course, the sew-riously adorable knitted adventure, Kirby's Epic Yarn. But one of our absolute favourites was a less well known gem of a title, Beat The Beat: Rhythm Paradise - a quick-fire, quirky musical mini-game collection that we still dig out for a quick blast to this day.
Not so much a brand new game as a revamped best-of, Rhythm Paradise Megamix takes a selection of popular mini-games from the previous Wii, DS and Japan-only GameBoy Advance titles, adds a sprinkling of new rhythm games, bundles it onto a 3DS cartridge, and reimagines it into what is perhaps the most bizarre entry in the series so far. Now, instead of back-to-back mini-games, there's the story of a pink-afro-ed space dog Tibby, who, having fell from the sky, is hoping to get back to his home of Heaven World. How does he do this? Well, by restoring the 'groovy flow' to a number of nearby towers, and blasting himself back home, of course - which is where you come in, as you and your opposable thumbs will be needed to tap buttons in time with the music, tackling all of the kooky rhythm games in each tower in order to send Tibby home.
Generally relying on just the A button, with occasional cameos from the +Control Pad and B buttons (or, if you're feeling particularly crazy, you can switch to Touch Screen controls instead, thankfully without all the flicky swishy nonsense of the previous DS game), you'll need to tap and hold in time with the beat to do everything from sumo wrestling to fruit catching and wood chopping. Off the wall mini-games are a speciality of the series, whether it's holding down a button to fill a robot with fuel on a production line, copying a rhythm back to pluck hairs from a suspiciously hirsute onion, or keeping the beat with your button presses to help a bunny hop across some rocks. But, despite the craziness going on on screen, the beauty of Rhythm Paradise is that what you see on screen doesn't actually usually matter - instead, you really need to take your cues from the soundtrack, and listen well to time your button presses right.
Depending on how on accurate you are with your button presses, the points you earn will translate into one of three different ranks - 'Try Again' (or, fail) if you messed up too much, 'But just... OK' for a middling performance, or 'Superb' if you did really well. Generally governed by how many times you missed, with extra credit given for getting an 'Ace' perfectly timed press or two, Rhythm Paradise Megamix feels more forgiving than previous entries in the series, which often had us cursing games for several days/weeks as we failed to master its more punishing games. A nice touch for this instalment is that the Touch Screen now gives you a visual indicator of how close you were to a perfect hit each time, letting you easily tweak your rhythm slightly if it shows you're a bit to early or late, making it that much easier to achieve mini-game perfection.
Rhythm Paradise Megamix is essentially a game of two halves - the first sees you making your way through the forest with Tibby in tow, heading for a tower on the horizon. During your journey, you'll come across six rather strange folks who all have problems in their life and need your help to get things back on track, whether it's a mechanic that has "games gridlocked all over his garage", a hairdresser who wants to redecorate to attract new customers, or a bipolar bird-obsessive woman desperate for her egg to hatch. Complete each characters' four rhythm games and they'll unlock the way forward, giving you coins depending on how well you do in each game; coins which come into play a bit later.
Every other stage sees you running into the wannabe sinister Gatekeeper Trio, who have a slightly different agenda - a single mini-game lies between you and the next stage, but now you must decide how confident you are at completing it, and completing it well. Less musical and more timing-related, here you'll be asked to flip a coin and catch it after three seconds have passed (without a timer), or charge up an electric car, removing the plug when the timer hits zero - only the timer fades out before it gets there, so you have to guess. You have a choice of three different difficulties you can choose to set the challenge at, but each requires a fee of a certain number of coins before you can play, with easier levels costing more than harder ones. Whether you want to pay less and risk more by going for the hardest, leaving enough cash for a couple of attempts, or play it safer on easy but only have a single go is up to you - but be prepared to have to head back and replay previous rhythm games to get more coins to try again too!
Once you reach the towers, you'll find yourself tackling harder versions of the rhythm games you played previously - longer songs, faster paced or more complex rhythms, with a remix as the fifth and final floor of each tower. As with previous Rhythm Paradise games, remixes take all the previous mini-games you've played and mash them up into a banging tune, chopping and changing between the games at a heck of a pace. One second you'll be playing air badminton before karate chopping a couple of plant pots, with a sudden switch to catch a pineapple before returning to air badminton, all within a few beats of each other. As they're so quick-fire, and with no reminder of what you need to do in each rhythm game, they tend to be a bit more of a test than the regular songs. While they're not quite as catch as some of the remixes from previous games, they're still pretty fun.
Outside of the main game, there's an extra mode known as the Challenge Train, which you can play either on your lonesome, or with up to four friends via Download Play, using a single copy of the game. As you can probably guess from the name, boarding the Challenge Train (which costs a small amount of coins in single player, but is free for multiplayer) lets you can take on a variety of different challenges - namely, the rhythm games from the story mode, but under some more challenging conditions. Sometimes speeding up the tempo, sometimes giving you a set number of lives to complete it in, sometimes giving you a target score to beat, it adds an extra layer of challenge to games you've probably already mastered, as well as netting you some precious Flow Balls, which can be exchanged for bonus rhythm games in the game's store. And, as take-it-in-turns sessions on the Wii Rhythm Paradise were a favourite at Everybody Plays Towers, being able to get everyone involved at once is great - co-operatively, too. However, the Flow Ball payout seems a tad miserly if you ask us, given the sheer amount of stuff in the shop we want to buy!
Bringing the oddball magic of Rhythm Paradise back to a handheld, Rhythm Paradise Megamix is another great entry in the series, and well worth picking up if you have a hankering for some musical button pressing as the nights draw in. The new story mode and the multiplayer Challenge Train are a nice touch, and make up for the fact that many of the included rhythm games will be rather familiar to long term fans - but as far as we're concerned, we'll always have time for a quick 'Pose for the fans!', no matter what.