Having a humorous cheer squad at your back would help anyone feel more empowered in their time of need. Elite Beat Agents, for the Nintendo DS, is about an agency that sends spunky music agents across the world to help people through their times of trouble or grief.
Commander Kahn briefs the agents on the situations before going around the world to help. With a hearty bellow of “GO!” before each mission, the game begins for the player. The player’s role in the game is to help the agents succeed by using the touchscreen in a tap-game style. The more correctly timed taps the player does, the better the agents perform. If the player does not successfully tap the screen at the correct time, the agents will begin performing poorly, thus failing their mission.
Each mission has its own song for the player to tap to. The music selection for Elite Beat Agents is a mix of mostly soft rock from popular artists such as Madonna, to popular one-hit songs such as YMCA. The game is played by having the player tap a certain spot on the screen at a certain time, usually in respect to the rhythm of the music. The spots on the screen are sectioned by color and organized by number to show which spots the player should tap first. In order to show when the spots needs to be tapped, a larger ring slowly (or quickly depending on the difficulty) shrinks around the spot. When the ring touches the outside of the spot, that is when the player should tap the spot in order to gain points.
There are more actions than just tapping spots; some of the actions have the player roll a ball across the screen. The ball action requires the player to tap and hold the stylus on the ball until it reaches the end of the slide. Another action is to spin a wheel for a short amount of time as fast as possible. The spin usually happens at the end of segments of play.
To help give the player breaks through Elite Beat Agents, the player will not be tapping a full two or three minutes of a song. The songs are broken up into segments that have intervals to allow the player to see their progress on the mission. What I felt was a great feature about this game was, depending on how well you do, the progression images change. Once the level is won, if you go back and play the level again to lose, some of the losing images and situations are humorous. Another aspect of the game that was fantastic was how the agents react to parts of the game. On one mission, you have to help cheer up a little girl whose father had died before Christmas. Instead of doing a silly dance or antics to cheer the girl up, they merely sing to her and sway back and forth on the song. The agents fit the mood of the song and never act overtly on the serious tones of the game.
One thing that would be more interesting would be to have a different song for every level the player advances. Yes, there are special stages that can be unlocked, but through all the story modes, all the music is the same, just, well, harder. If the same amount of songs were still in place, I would have preferred to have one unlocked every new level.
That said, the replay value on the game is very high. I have had this game for years, and I still enjoy going back to play some of my favorite songs. I even like to change difficulties to play as my favorite agents. Once the game is completed, there is one extra secret agent, which I won’t spoil! It would have been a nice feature to be able to play as your favorite agent on any difficulty of the game after the game was completed. Lastly, there is a multiplayer feature available to play with friends. In my experiences using the multiplayer, it is rather laggy or your taps just won’t register as fast as you would normally tap in regular story mode. The characters and stories in multiplayer mode are just as silly as they are in story mode.
Overall I found Elite Beat Agents to be exceptionally fun if you have a silly sense of humor, or if you just want a game you can put down and pick up easily. Since the game has been out for quite a few years now, and is pretty close to dirt cheap, just make the effort to spend the couple dollars to purchase it. It is fun and makes you want to strive to get better at playing. When you do put Elite Beat Agents down for a bit, you might just glance over it and think to yourself “I wonder if I am still as good at that game as I was before,” and the fun begins again.