Amazon’s wish list feature is an awfully handy thing.
I don’t really use it for its intended purpose, though – I’m not pimping it around to friends and relatives as a “gosh, if you ever needed a gift idea”.
What I mostly use it for, instead, is watching stuff that I’d like to buy but don’t really want to pay full price for – I don’t pretend to understand how Amazon’s pricing and inventory work, but they DO have a tendency to occasionally discount something heavily for a day or two and then put it back up to full price.
One of the things on my wish list was a DS game called Ontamarama, which I’d seen in the stores last fall and filed under the “music based puzzle game with cute characters; I will probably like it” category.
But it WAS thirty bucks, and for some reason it didn’t seem like a $30 game.
It stayed at full price for several months, and then for some reason Amazon priced it down to $10.04. I saw that as a sign.
Not, you know, a really IMPRESSIVE sign. We’re not talking meteor showers, ethereal voices telling me to take my family to high ground, burning bush kinds of signs. Just, you know, a sign that I should probably buy the dang thing so I could see if it was as cute as the case implied.
And yeah, it’s pretty cute. It’s got a plot which can charitably be described as wafer-thin: there’s a Bad Guy who’s collecting helpless innocent creatures to use their energy to become the Ultimate Bad Guy, and you’re the plucky young pigtailed schoolgirl who’s got to stop him.
Oh, there’s a guy character too. If they’d put HIM in a plaid skirt, I might have played through his story.
It is MOST regrettable that you cannot play as the third of the main characters, that being the music instructor who helps you through the training levels; she’s got the quiet-type-with-glasses thing going on and I’m completely helpless in the face of a cute girl with glasses.
Leaving the main characters aside, there’s a handful of enemies to battle on your quest to defeat the Bad Guy and free all the helpless innocent creatures. Most of them are either under the Evil Mind Control of the Bad Guy, or fighting you because they mistakenly think that you are, in fact, working FOR the Bad Guy.
The enemy character designs are pretty decent. None of them wear glasses, though.
Considering that your opponents are mostly innocents, it’s a good thing that you’re not actually subjecting them to any harm. You meet them, you have a short conversation which consists of either 1) your character denying any culpability in the Evil Events Unfolding, or 2) your character telling them that she won’t let them get away with their evil plans, and then you have a musical battle.
Afterwards, you either make up (if they were being controlled, have mistaken you for a bad guy, etc) or they tell you that you were stronger than they expected but it doesn’t matter because the Bad Guy is INVINCIBLE Muha ha haha ahaha hah ahah ah…
So, summing up: Nice character designs, not much plot, uh, I’m missing something.
How it plays.
If you can run your left and right hands out of sync – the pat your head, rub your belly thing – you can play this game. You use one hand to burst bubbles on the touch pad, you use the other hand to select notes from a scrolling bar as they pass a particular point. While you’re doing this, your character and your opponent engage in a cute animated battle which you won’t be able to watch because you’re basically focusing all your attention on the upper left 1/16th of the DS’s bottom screen.
This is Ontamarama’s biggest flaw, in my view; there’s stuff going on that you would love to see because you can tell that it’s probably funny to watch, but at the same time you can’t watch it because you have to be ready for the next note. Ouendan has the same problem, but at least it includes a replay mode so you CAN watch all the animations after a song ends.
Another complaint, less important, is that because the two actions you have to perform – bubble popping and note selection – aren’t really synced up, there’s not a feeling of playing along WITH the music, like you get in Ouendan or, say, Guitar Hero. It doesn’t really feel like a rhythm game when all is said and done, despite all its musical trappings.
After you play through the story mode, which takes an hour or so, you unlock the ability to buy new songs, play in harder difficulty levels, play 2-player vs games, blah blah blah. If you feel the need to squeeze more life out of the game, they give you plenty of ways to do it.
Final verdict: I like cute games with lots of charm, and this has that going for it. I don’t regret having picked this one up cheap. If I’d paid full price or it, I think I’d have been a bit disappointed.