Once upon a time, Beat City was a happy upbeat place — until it was taken over by failed opera singer, Dame Isolde Minor, and her evil Cacophony Corporation, who drained the music and life out of Beat City. Then, from a far away planet came a Groovy Whale — a flying whale armed with headphones — who finds a citizen with a strong sense of rhythm and transforms him into Synchronizer by embedding a loudspeaker in his forehead. Together, they bring back rhythm and revitalize Beat City.
Beat City is one of those games that can be played by anyone with a sense of rhythm; it can also act as a teaching tool for music beats and rhythm. You play through a series of rhythm games — 232 of them in all — as you travel through Beat City, cheering up the citizens and revitalizing the city. The lovely thing about the game is that it is entirely graphical and rhythmic, with very little text. The story is told in simple comic panels, and a tutorial shows you what to expect and how to play the next game. You have to pass the tutorial before the game allows you to proceed to the actual game, or you can skip the tutorial once you know what to do. I skipped often, as the tutorial has a beat, but the game itself plays music, and I for one find the beat more intuitively in music.
There are three actions in Beat City: a touch of the screen, a flick of the stylus, and a touch and hold. These are shown graphically in the tutorial, and when you are ready, off you go to explore Beat City. The DS is held on its side like a book, and the story unfolds in comic panels without any text, and then the game begins. Instructions on the left, beats on the right — the touchscreen — and as you advance in each particular minigame, the beats pick up, the combinations pick up and the screen grows more vibrant. Synchronizer’s hair and clothing changes, the background changes and you even get pink flying hippos in some games if you do really well!
The minigames are also varied. I was concerned when I hit the first repeat but higher-difficulty minigame, but the very next was an entirely new game once again, and each minigame has three levels. Some are as graphically simple as a beat bar, and you tap the touchscreen in rhythm to the music as at the pulse. There are “Simon Says” and modified “Simon Says” games that are graphical as well as musical. The Crow Chorus, for example, is a matter of tapping the rhythm that is presented, and as the game moves along, the difficulty ramps up, and as you complete each sequence, the graphics grow vibrant, rewarding you with colors and vibrancy. Each difficulty level also increases the complexity of the rhythm, and you are given a score at the end of every game. You will be introduced to off-beats, syncopated beats as well as a rest just there, where you want to tap the screen in time to the music. Yes, it can fool you.
The games can be rather hilarious as well. One of them is passing a roll of toilet paper down a line of office workers standing with their legs crossed in front of a closed toilet door, flicking the roll over the door just at the right time. Another features a conveyor belt of sushi that you have to feed to a sumo wrestler. As you progress through the game, you begin to combine actions. The minigames move from a single action to two and then to all three actions, and each minigame is different enough that you begin to really appreciate the tutorial. Again, as you progress, the graphics become more complex, and soon you are speeding along telephone lines, jumping short circuits and smashing bad filters, pouring water and fanning yourself in a sauna, and even performing yoga ... all to the beat of a song track and a flick, a tap, or a press and hold of your stylus.
All in all, I found Beat City a fun and challenging little game. Every minigame unlocked allows you to play it outside of the story mode. The game expects players to make mistakes, so I actually found myself scoring more than a 100 percent on some of the simpler rhythm games, and I found some games fun and challenging enough that I replayed them several times just so I could get that 110 percent. If you need a fun rhythm game on the go, check out Beat City.