Rhythm Heaven is an odd entry in the music genre. It captures the same play-along spirit of other musically themed games but has a minigame collection mentality, quickly rushing you from one strange situation to the next. The offbeat nature of these different scenes makes the experience feel loose and freewheeling, and the simple joy of following along with catchy tunes is your lone guiding force. Looks can be deceiving, though. Underneath the happy-go-lucky visuals, Rhythm Heaven hides a fierce difficulty that could halt those cursed with the inability to follow anything more than a simple beat. The quirky encounters and hummable music make this fun for anyone who likes to tap along to the radio, but the difficulty could serve as an unmovable obstacle for players who lack musical talent.
You control Rhythm Heaven using nothing more than your stylus. There are only a few moves to learn, but because of the variety of scenarios, the game rarely gets repetitive. Most of the time, you'll need to either tap the screen, following along with the beat like a drummer, or keep your stylus on the screen to hold a longer note. There is also a flick move, which is used to finish off a particular set of commands with a flourish. For instance, when participating in a glee club, you hold your stylus on the screen to keep your stick-figure character silent, lift up to sing along with your friends, and flick to hit those high notes. The flick translates surprisingly well to the onscreen actions, making it a rewarding way to end particularly tricky sections. However, this move does not always register, especially when you have to quickly flick after completing a string of taps. For the most part, though, the touch screen commands work well, giving you nothing to blame if you're too awkward to follow along with the beat.
Rhythm Heaven takes you down some unexplored roads in the music genre. The standard instruments are here, so you can bang along on a giant drum or play guitar in a ghost rock band, but there are some really strange situations as well. In one stage, you have to take pictures of cars speeding around a track in time with the beat. In another, you play as a ninja dog and have to slice vegetables as they soar above your head. The oddity of the different events adds a lot to the experience, and as each new level opens you'll rush to see what weird idea you'll get to play through next. As clever as the visuals are, though, they can be a distraction. The animations don't always match up perfectly with the music, so if you're using your eyes to know when to swipe your stylus, you'll often be slightly off. Because of this, it's often easier to pass levels by closing your eyes and feeling the music rather than putting your trust in the inaccurate visuals.