Review: Let’s Tap

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It is both an achievement and a failure that your first task in Let’s Tap is the game’s most interesting. Find a box, you’re told – ideally a tissue box. Now place the Wii remote on top, face down. Don’t move as it calibrates, and you’re in business.

To its credit, Let’s Tap refutes the claim that the Wii remote is a simple waggle stick. Its core mechanic lies in tapping the box to vibrate the controller by proxy. The controls allow for a surprisingly high level of precision, but the game seldom demands it. Instead, the mini-games of Let’s Tap parse out every gesture into two or three levels of tap strength. Of these five mini-games, which can be played alone or with three other people, only one truly glorifies the concept of Let’s Tap, and it’s downhill from there.

Even the best mini-game, “Tap Runner,” would work just fine with conventional controls. It’s essentially a Track and Field clone – just the track part, that is – but with more obstacles. Instead of mashing buttons, players frantically tap their box to make the avatar move. The trick isn’t in tap speed, but in rhythm. Calm, measured beats give the player a speed boost, and a hearty slap of the box triggers a jump, useful for hopping over hurdles, leaping through warp fields and hitting spring boards, among other obstacles.

Sure, all of this could be done with a set of buttons, or by holding the Wii remote and shaking it, but the box concept is alluring. I brought in my fiancée as a test subject, and she immediately took to the idea, demanding level after level of racing until there were no more. Then she asked to play again.

It’s too bad the rest of Let’s Tap doesn’t hold that appeal. The second mini-game, “Rhythm Tap,” is a drumming challenge, but it fails in practically every way. The music is unbearably cheesy Japanese pop, and the scoring system doesn’t penalize the player for hitting extra beats, allowing for cheap, rapid-tapping exploits. As a multiplayer game, Rhythm Tap misses the opportunity for musical counterpoint, as every slap counts towards one giant tap meter. Additional players might as well be hitting the same box.

Rhythm Tap reveals some of the cracks in Let’s Tap‘s control scheme. Tapping the box in rapid succession isn’t always reliable, resulting in missed beats here and there. The Wii remote is also prone to moving around the box during play, especially without the suggested rubber grip (sold separately, of course). It’s actually easier to just tap on the top of the Wii remote, ruining the “outside the box” illusion that creator Yuji Naka so delicately sets up.

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The disappointment continues with “Silent Blocks,” a dumbed-down Jenga clone featuring vertically-stacked cylinders. There’s nothing exciting or challenging about the systematic removal of these blocks; it’s just a matter of choosing the right block and correct angle to pull from and delicately tapping the box to jiggle the block from its tower. And the reward for diligently removing an entire column? Another column, followed by another. A secondary mode that involves matching blocks by color fares only slightly better.

Here yet another flaw in the control scheme of Let’s Tap becomes apparent. For all its sensitivity, the Wii remote alone can’t sense the direction of a player’s tapping. Certainly MotionPlus wasn’t in the cards for Let’s Tap, but Silent Blocks would’ve been more intriguing if players had to utilize all sides of their box.

By the time the player reaches “Bubble Voyager,” it seems like Let’s Tap developer Prope had run out of ideas. The mini-game resembles those Flash helicopter games in which the player intermittently pushes a button to keep a 2-D chopper hovering along the ground. In this rendition, gentle taps help a robotic character navigate obstacles, and heavy slaps launch missiles. After a couple tries at this endless score attack, there’s nothing left to see. The multiplayer mode is worse, with players trying to shoot each other as they propel around the battle arena, rotating in endless circles. Of all the mini-games, this is the only one that actually made me yearn for a joystick.

Finally, there’s “Visualizer,” an open playground that, after all the game’s other letdowns, is a slap in the face. Creating graphic effects by tapping aimlessly is suitable entertainment for toddlers – and maybe that’s the point – but from here it looks more like Prope was padding its PR bullet points than creating an actual fifth mode of play.

Most players could plow through all of Let’s Tap‘s content in a few hours. The biggest payoff comes from playing through every level in Tap Runner, unlocking four bonus levels that culminate in a final “catapult” challenge. As the credits roll, players tap their boxes at varying strengths to launch rocks at distant targets, thereby opening a path to the next catapult. While the opening task of box hunting for Let’s Tap is most interesting, the last stage is easily the best.

This final moment exposes the unfulfilled potential of Let’s Tap. Why weren’t there more ideas like this? Why are the other mini-games so half baked that they’d work just as well or even better with a different control scheme? The fundamentals behind Let’s Tap are sound, and the game is ripe for a sequel, maybe one with the benefits of MotionPlus. But as far as introductions go, Let’s Tap is flatter than the box it stands on.

Bottom Line: Yuji Naka had his thinking cap on when devising Let’s Tap‘s control scheme. Unfortunately, he didn’t save enough brainpower for the game itself.

Recommendation: With enough friends or young children at the ready, Let’s Tap is worth an evening or two, but certainly not a trip to GameStop.

Jared Newman proudly navigated this review without the phrase “think outside the box.” This byline doesn’t count.


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