Friday, 23 January 2009

Let's Tap Review


In case you haven't heard of this, Let's Tap! was one of the more interesting games seen at the Tokyo Game Show in 2008. The premise being that this is a game where you don't touch the controller at all. Instead you assemble one of two included reinforced cardboard boxes and rest the wiimote face-down on it. The wiimote motion sensors that get so much grief in the gaming press for their imprecision are able to detect movement sufficiently that several minigames could be put into a collection all about sending motion information by vibrating the controller using taps.


You know you're seeing a piece of gaming history when after pressing A+B to start you're presented with a screen showing a picture of the orange Let's Tap! base next to a picture of a blue box which has "Tissue" printed on the side -- no joke, the suggestion seems to be that you can use a kleenex box as an alternative accessory for the game. Brilliant! But, before you can play you need to complete a tutorial about tapping.


There are three types of tap: soft, medium and hard, but you also need to be able to double-tap, at which point you might be thinking "why not have a tablet add-on controller?" which will become more hoped for later, but clearly a cardboard box is a cheaper accessory, no? From here on out you can use the tapping as the sole interface to the game. Single taps cycle through selections; double taps launch games or exit. This is possibly the most frustrating part because you need to double-tap by doing a strong initial tap and a weaker second tap -- you'll get the hang of it, I promise! And if you don't get the hang of things with the default settings you can tweak the sensitivity and the double-tap detection in a configuration screen accessible as the third option on the main game menu.


Games (click for trailers):

Tap Runner -- run a 4-person race (any racers not controlled by human players are controlled by the computer). There are several levels with four stages per level. They can be replayed at will after each match. Run with small taps; jump with big ones. As you get to higher stages you have more obstacles and alternate routes. Coming in 1st gets you a gold medal and a triumphant pose for your little stick-man. Visually it's quite appealing with transluscent coloured backgrounds and playfield. It's fun, but will stress your fingers in the higher levels unless you're a professional typist!

Rhythm Tap -- Music rhythm game very similar to Namco's Taiko Master: tap in time to the appearance of coloured dots in one of five initial tracks with more to unlock. Delivering the proper intensity of tap rewards more points, but the main thing is to hit the mark on-time. Music is nice ambient electro and J-Pop -- the Let's Tap! theme is ace and I do hope a soundtrack CD is released.

Silent Blocks -- Basically it's jenga with discs. Discs are highlighted one at a time from top to bottom and you tap to select one, then tap again to choose which angle to push it out, then tap to push the disc out whilst trying not to upset the stack. There are two game modes. In alchemy you remove discs to clear out groups of three of the same colour. Clear enough and the level increases which introduces more colours. The other mode involves removing all discs below a treasure chest in order to get it on the ground. It's the weakest offering in the collection if only because it's not always clear if your actions are going to topple the tower: sometimes you can have it in a precarious position and it won't fall; other times the same unbalance will topple it. You don't really have a sense of jeopardy because of the physics being so imprecise. Still, it's a fun diversion once in a while.

Bubble Voyager -- Use taps to make your polygonal space hero fly through a horizontal playfield filled with mines, asteroids and pickups. Get as many stars as you can, pick up the power-ups and avoid the baddies! Fun stuff. Double-taps to launch rockets (upgradable) at space squids and rocks; also to unlock power-ups. At the end of each stage is a landing platform to recharge your battery (repair damage) at which point it's like Lunar Lander using taps on the box to fire retro bubbles (rockets). Nice retro action with a multiplayer battle mode to boot.

Visualiser -- Different ambient musics with different backgrounds. Tapping causes events on-screen like fireworks, water droplets, paint splashes, etc. You can play one at a time or create a playlist. One at a time loops the music until you press the B button to move on. Your actions produce different effects depending upon the Visualiser: Fireworks creates special fireworks in response to different patterns of hard/soft tapping, River reveals different animals in the river. Paint and Ink show you different objects. In the Gem visualiser you're making balls fly in the air and trying to get them in little cups -- more game-like than the other Visualiser modes. Achieving certain goals in the game will unlock an additional Visualiser mode featuring coral reefs, turtles and whales amongst other creatures.

Control:
Well, is it up to snuff? Surprisingly, yes! Tapping becomes second nature to make selections and the like. For the painting visualiser you'll wish you had a tablet so you could control the paint strokes, but a tablet controller add-on would cost more than a cardboard box, wouldn't it? When I bought it upon release it worked out to £40, though the NA and EU releases come in a lot cheaper. Is it worth it? Well, you have a novel control interface and 4-1/2 decent minigames -- of course I think you should hop on a plane and buy this if that's what it takes!

What's good about it?

Leaderboards (local only) for the four game modes and fun gameplay. Tapping is fun!

What's bad about it?

Well, vigorous tapping makes your wiimote want to fall off the box, so you'll need to keep an eye on it. Doing the double-tap in the menus can be a bit hit-and-miss at first, but you get the hang of it in time. You only get two base boxes, so extra players will need to bring tissue boxes to play. My wife says listening to the tapping is like Chinese water torture and suggests that it's a good thing there's an extra box packed in just in case something happens to the one I'm currently using -- oh and add finger strain to the list of The Sun's Wii Medical Ailments -- tapping is torture!