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Let's Tap (Wii) artwork

Let's Tap (Wii) review

"Let's Tap thinks outside the box. More specifically, right on top of it. The game offers up a hands-free control scheme where you place the Wii remote face-down on a box or flat surface. Tap nearby, and the vibrations travel to the remote and register as input. It'll even pick up the strength of the tremor."

Let's Tap thinks outside the box. More specifically, right on top of it. The game offers up a hands-free control scheme where you place the Wii remote face-down on a box or flat surface. Tap nearby, and the vibrations travel to the remote and register as input. It'll even pick up the strength of the tremor. Certainly it's a novel idea, but two questions immediately spring to mind. How well does it work, and what can you do with it?

This unique title answers the latter inquiry with a total of five distinct minigames, and Tap Runner sprints to the front of the pack. The athletes in this race are stick figures, on break from populating restroom and wet-floor signage. They streak to the finish line of an electric, wire-framed obstacle course at the outer edges of the universe. Here, a gentle pitter-patter from your index fingers will propel your runner forward at a steady pace. A mild rap will glide him over hurdles, while a stronger thud shows off his vertical leap. That's necessary to avoid electrocution at strategically placed sparks of energy. It's funny how many ways your runner can be tripped up; falling blocks will flatten him, and he can lose balance while performing a high-wire act. No wonder he'll double-over to catch his breath when he finally reaches an escalator. The only thing this mode needs is a level editor. If Excitebike could do it 20+ years ago, why can't this?

All the other minigames use the same three-tiered register of light, medium, and hard taps, but fail to exude the same flair. Rhythm Tap seems like the most natural fit for the new control method; surely everyone has drummed their fingers in time with a catchy tune. The instrumental songs here, though, are generic and bland, even in lively genres like jazz and Latin. Rhythm also has a rather lenient scoring system that barely punishes tapping with the wrong strength. It just doesn't demand or provide a satisfactory connection with the music.

Silent Blocks falls because a similar lack of finesse. This minigame is a Jenga-like experience; players take turns pulling discs out of a tower and hope it doesn't collapse. And it won't, not unless you willfully pull in the wrong direction or hammer the box. The game does present a variation where you must also coordinate colors of the tiles, but the underlying objective is so easy that doesn't provide much extra stimulation.

The remaining two offerings suffer because they lack a distinct purpose. Bubble Voyager actually shows promise; it's a side-scrolling shooter without the bullets. Tapping lightly emits bubbles from your spaceman's jetpack, boosting him forward and up over spiky obstacles. Tapping firmly fires a rocket to blow up other obstructions. However, the control is purposefully fuzzy; you have to wait for gravity to pull him down, meaning it's easy to get stuck in the wrong place. The Voyager is also on a never-ending quest. Every time you start over from the beginning and continue only as long as you stay alive.

The Visualizer is like an interactive screensaver. This places you in a peaceful atmosphere: a darkened cityscape silhouette, a tranquil stream, or a blank piece of parchment. Tapping drapes these empty palettes with an expression of feeling: a barrage of fireworks, ripples in the water, or brushstrokes of ink. There are combinations of taps that will produce fancier formations, but it's entirely up to you to compose a meaningful show. However, object placement is random, there's no overt direction, and no score to measure any sort of aptitude. If you're like me and your creative juices dried up long ago, the screen just ends up in a messy jumble.

Content aside, the actual mechanics of tapping work surprisingly well. There's a clear boundary between the three different strengths, and it only takes a few minutes of play to acclimate to the force necessary for each level. More important, it shouldn't matter which type of carton you use, either. While the Japanese version came packed with its own special box, other regions didn't receive the same treatment. That means you must scrounge for a platform of your own. All the games accommodate at least four players as well, so to bongo with your buds, you would have to come up with a few extra anyway.

I tested the effectiveness of three different varieties. The game recommends a tissue box for the perfect acoustic resonance, and its springy frame provided a nice amount of resistance. It passed. Next I tried a larger computer box, and found no dropoff despite its increased rigidity and booming sound. Another pass. Last, I tried a pizza box constructed of sturdier corrugated cardboard. (Every gamer should have one around, right?) It responded just as well, even with a few slices left inside. That has to make Let's Tap the first game where you can crack open the control mechanism for a snack between games. Ingenious.

Does all this mean we can label Yuji Naka brilliant yet again? Iconic for his work with Sega's Sonic Team, he focuses on a single creative idea in this premier effort from Prope, his own independent studio. Without a doubt, this control scheme will be carried over into other titles. As I type this, I'm sure someone out there is working on Heroic Rock Drummer, complete with a pair of drumstick peripherals. But like many trailblazers, Let's Tap only scratches the surface of its new concept. It opens the door to innovation, but it's too simple to burst through.

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Staff review by Benjamin Woodhouse (July 13, 2009)

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