As the great Satoru Iwata once noted: "Above all, video games are meant to just be one thing: fun for everyone." Whether you agree or not, games can certainly cheer you up when you're feeling low. With that in mind, Chris Schilling's new column The Pick-Me-Up will choose a game that can make you smile in just ten minutes. Today's selection is Nintendo's recently released Rhythm Paradise Megamix, for the 3DS.
Rhythm-action games drill down to the very core of what we love about the interactive medium: the idea of an input producing a tangible response. And Rhythm Paradise Megamix makes the process as simple as it possibly can.
Each of its near-countless mini-games presents a delightfully silly scenario—from a monk lobbing eggs into his mouth to an astronaut translating alien missives to ground control—where your only job is to press a single button with the right timing, resulting in a melodic or percussive sound.
Above: 'Rhythm Heaven Megamix', E3 2016 official game trailer
Occasionally, that extends to a second button, and/or the d-pad; and sometimes you'll need to hold the button down rather than tap it. But it's always instinctive: You never need to worry about what you're doing, only when you're doing it.
With that established, Megamix's next trick is a mischievous stroke of genius: it does everything within its power to put you off. In "Spaceball," for example, you're asked to smack pitches from inside a green room floating inside a star field. Seems straightforward enough. But then things take a turn for the strange.
The camera starts to zoom in and out, before pulling in tightly on a wiggling craft in the middle of the room, whose hatch opens to reveal a grinning alien squid. It steadily draws back to reveal the batter is now wearing a bunny mask, then zooms all the way out until you can barely see the room. When it returns, you'll notice his head has been replaced by what can only be described as an anxious tomato.
Meanwhile, in the wonderful "LumBEARjack", as you're chopping logs of various sizes you're gradually joined by a growing cast of cats who launch into a hypnotically bizarre stretchy dance that's all but impossible to ignore.
These none-too-subtle ploys encourage you to focus on audio rather than visual cues to succeed, but while it's incredibly satisfying when you're able to tune out the distractions and nail the rhythm, it's almost as good when you screw up, because something funny is almost certain to happen.
Miss your cue in "Glee Club" and your fellow singers will give you a dose of vicious side-eye, their brows furrowing until you put it right. In "Sumo Brothers", a mistimed slap will leave your wrestler unflatteringly sprawled on the floor. This naturally throws you off your stride even more—it's hard to keep time when your shoulders are shaking with suppressed laughter.
"Even if you've no sense of rhythm, Megamix is forgiving enough to show you a good time, and hilarious enough that you won't mind being rubbish at it."
While its charmingly silly but unnecessary story mode eventually just gets in the way of the brilliant mini-games, Megamix trumps its predecessors in volume and range. It's a greatest hits package that brings back all of the best tunes from previous games and chucks in some belters of its own.
One, where a sad bear comfort-eats his way through a break-up, finishes with a disarmingly sweet twist. Another, featuring a trio of clapping cats, is so infectious (and adorable) you'll want to play it again immediately.
Those with laser focus and a metronomic ear will enjoy trying to achieve rhythmic mastery. Finishing a game without missing a single cue for a perfect medal is a high-wire act of exquisite tension, while one challenge mode sees the screen slowly sliding into a mouth of a hungry monster, with only immaculate beat-matching to temporarily halt it.
But even if you've no sense of rhythm, Megamix is forgiving enough to show you a good time—and hilarious enough that you won't mind being rubbish at it. With a collection of earworm tunes that'll take up residence inside your brain's personal Spotify playlist, it's the feel-good hit of the winter.