Elite Beat Agents Reader Review
Let me start by saying I have no rhythm, can't hold a tune when I whistle, and dance around like Carlton Banks. I've tried rhythm action games before, Space Channel 5 never agreed with me, Guitar Hero was a disaster, and dance mat games are worse. In fact the only similar game I have enjoyed was Donkey Konga, and that's because there are only 2 buttons. Despite this after having a quick play of Elite Beat Agents on a friends DS I order a copy the same day.
In the game you play as a member of the Elite Beat Agents, your mission is to help people out of tight spots by dancing and cheering them on. Each mission is introduced by a comic strip style cut scene setting the scene, which range from oil tycoon whose oil field has dried up to helping a lost dog return home. All the cut scenes end with a cry for help, which is when your team get sent out to save the day. Saving the day involves hitting numbered buttons or following a beach ball along a path in time to the music, and each level ends with a disc that you have to spin to gain bonus points. This is all done on the touch screen, and controls fantastically. Every button is accompanied by a timing ring which shrinks to show you when to hit it. Buttons can be strung together and overlapping, so hitting the right button at the right time can be a real challenge on some of the later songs when the screen is filled. Fortunately it's still fun even for people with no rhythm, and even I managed to get through all the songs! Your score is built up hitting the buttons, with a growing multiplier if you don't miss any. There is a Beat bar which acts as your health, missing too many buttons will cause it shrink and you'll fail your mission if it runs out. The game has great replay value, there are some unlockables like gallery pictures and harder difficulty levels, but mostly the replay value comes from wanting to improve your score or get that higher rank.
The game looks fantastic, everything is very well drawn and the cut scenes look vibrant and the characters are all suitably over the top in Japanese comic style. There is a different song for each mission, a personal favorite was having to search for sunken treasure in time to the Village Peoples YMCA, kept a smile on my face all the way home, and no doubt scared the passengers sitting opposite me! The music is mostly fairly recent American pop/rock, ranging from Avril Lavigne's Sk8er Boi to David Bowie's Lets dance. The music is accompanied by various cheers, claps, bangs and whistles as you tap away on the screen, the Christmas mission is a little different using subtle chimes and bells in place of the usual noise. The production values are high throughout and all the bits come together to form an impressive looking and sounding DS game, making great use of the touch screen.
There are a few niggles that bothered me while I was playing. The music does sound a bit tinny, which is a probably down to limited space on the cartridge, but compared to some of the impressive soundtracks on the PSP games it highlights one of the DS weaker areas. Also when you get a lot of buttons on the screen at once, the timing rings can get quite messy, and you'll need to pay close attention to what buttons to hit. Finally, I found its not an easy game to play on the bus or on a bumpy train journey. Hitting the buttons at exactly the right moment is tricky to do when you've bounced out of your seat, and although you can pause the game it will throw your timing off.
Elite Beat Agents is great game, its perfectly balanced so that anybody will be able to enjoy it. The characters and stories will make you chuckle, and the music suits the game well, even if it isn't to personal taste. There are a few small things that detract from it, but they aren't enough to stop it being a great game. As I said at the top, me and rhythm games don't work, but I enjoyed this game so much I'm ordering a copy of the original Japanese "Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan" just to play some more! This is definitely a game all DS owners should have.
9 / 10