Riddim Ribbon from Tapulous offers a refreshing twist to the now tired music genre in gaming…
It’s hard to believe that it’s been only 5 years since the release of the RedOctane/Harmonix original Guitar Hero, now such a huge part of gaming across many platforms. It seemed obvious then that the same formula would appear on the AppStore. However, it was not to be an official release. Instead it fell to Tapulous to bring the experience to the iPhone and iPod Touch with their successful Tap Tap series. The game has spawned many sequels and spin offs and has become one of the great success stories of the AppStore. Gameloft had a go too with Guitar Rock Tour, and we eventually saw the spiritual successor to GH make an appearance in the form of EA’s Rock Band.
While I’m sure many of us are partial to a quick fix of GH or Rock Band (in my case The Beatles version), I have become tired of the same old format of tapping and strumming in time to notes traveling down the neck of a guitar. So, it falls to Tapulous to take a leap of faith and create a brand new and totally original breed of music game.
Riddim Ribbon is the bastard child of DJ Hero and Super Monkey Ball. The basic premise of your typical music game is there, get the best completion percentage rate by keeping the tune or beat in-time and in-tune, but the way you do it is more in line with a racing game.
You are presented with a 3D view of a ribbon like road, stretching out into the distance. Running along the road is a line representing the music track (think of it as a groove in a vinyl record), and your objective is to steer a tron like ball along this line using the accelerometer. Should you keep to the line then the music will continue you to play, however stray off it, and the music will slow, much like placing your finger on a record on a deck. On bottom left of the screen is a power meter, successfully keeping to the line will ensure this meter stays full, however stray off and the meter will deplete. Regular checkpoints require a full meter, so if you are running on empty when you pass through one it’s game over! On first play the accelerometer setting felt a little unforgiving, there is no calibration or sensitivity settings so you get what you are given. After a few attempts though I was zipping through the levels quite happily.
To add to the difficulty of each level in the game, various obstacles run along the side of the line which, when hit, will cause the music to stop… and if you hit them enough times it’s game over. Occasionally an obstacle will cross the path of the line, in which case you must jump it either via a ramp, or manually by flicking your device forward. This jump mechanic also allows you to pick up bonus points suspended above the line. Pebbles along the line also help keep your meter fully charged, as does jumping through rings. The more you stick to the line, and the more points you pickup the better your final completion score will be, allowing you to unlock the medium and hard difficulties of that level.
When all is said and done, a music games’ success boils down to one important factor… the music. It’s totally subjective of course, depending very much on your taste in music. Riddim Ribbon is tailored more towards the hip hop and dance genres, so if you are a die hard rock fan you may want steer clear. There’s a simple reason why it works better with those genres, as the game is designed to replicate the DJ experience. Each music track contains multiple remixes in one level, these are available through branching paths allowing you to roll onto another line, which alters the sound of the track. As well as the main remixes you can jump up onto another platform initiating different musical effects. Not only is this a great way to listen to well known songs in a different way, but it means that when you replay the same levels again for a higher score or on different difficulty level, it won’t quite sound the same.
In their Tap Tap games, Tapulous have featured big name artists such as Coldplay, Lady GaGa, Daft Punk and Metallica to name but a few. For Riddim Ribbon they have gone with a group that, while not my first choice, is a genius step to guarantee bums on seats (or in this case dollars for download), and that’s the hip-pop sounds of The Black Eyed Peas. I call it hip-pop because it blends both rap and funk with euro style dance and pop, and so is perfect for remixing. For £1.79 (2.99) you get three singles from the album, plus a free mp3 download of a remix. While the BEP’s tracks work well for the game, and feature some great remixes, my personal favourites are the three optional DLC downloads from house and trance DJ Tiesto and techno fuelled BennyBenassi. Not only do these tracks sound fantastic through a decent set of cans, with multilayered effects and remixes, they are a stronger fit with the overall techno style of the game, which has that neon/laser look club-scene feel to it. Much like Tap Tap, Tapulous have customised each level so the roads, obstacles and backgrounds reflect that of the artist featured, a nice touch for the fans.
Each DLC track can be downloaded for $0.99, it may sound a bit steep but you do get the full track during the game as well as the hidden remixes you can access through the branching paths… think of it as a new way to listen to music. Having said that, if you are a Tiesto fan and don’t care much for the Black Eyed Peas, then you will be paying just shy of five bucks for this game, which some might find a little hard to swallow. The BEP’s will guarantee a certain level of success, but I think a free lite version would be better suited, allowing people to choose the artist DLC they want.
Riddim Ribbon then is fresh approach to music based gaming. As it stands now, it may not offer you your personal preference in music, however if you are a fan of music games in general then it’s certainly worth checking out from a technical point of view. It sounds great, looks great and plays great. The lack of control customisation is a sore point, but much like any accelerometer game, practice makes perfect, and it’s all part of the challenge.
Riddim Ribbon is out now for $2.99