Orgarhythm offers a sobering reminder that pedigree is no guarantee of success, and that poor execution can hobble even the most promising ideas. Not even development talent like design lead Tak Hirai and composer Ayako Minami, nor a concept that imagines a point of impact between Patapon and Pikmin, can prevent this rhythm-action RTS from a dismaying descent into drudgery.
As with Patapon, your tribe is inactive until you tap out a beat. A persistent thumping rhythm prods you into selecting firstly a troop colour, then an attack type before you drag your finger to order your squad into position. Keep hitting the beat perfectly and the music will steadily build into a wall of sound as you hit the maximum skill level. Initially, it all seems very intuitive, helped by a series of uncommonly efficient tutorials that talk you through the elemental strengths of your tri-coloured tribe and the various attacks and support commands you’ll need to call upon.
To protect your dancing deity as he strides purposefully across the battlefield, you’ll need to respond quickly to threats, and at first that’s simple enough. Before long, you’ll be sending a line of blue archers ahead as protection, while readying a red catapult to take out an enemy positioned behind a barrier your yellow melee attackers can’t breach. Combat adopts a traditional rock-paper-scissors system, though a fully-levelled and buffed team can be a match for enemies they’d ordinarily be weak to. Beyond a range of support powers from healing allies to slowing enemy movement, that’s as complicated as its systems get, and sensibly the campaign doesn’t try to overstretch them. You’ll reach the end within six hours, with additional difficulty levels and a strict grading system providing the long-term challenge.
Few, we predict, will last that long. Orgarhythm offers a glimpse at what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, the automated movement of your god colliding with a restrictive camera to regularly leave you stumbling blindly into danger. If the idea is to encourage improvisational tactics, it’s stymied by woeful pathfinding that can leave a dozen troops desperately scrabbling behind a rock as you’re unavoidably and repeatedly pummelled by rocks. During boss fights the camera retreats to such a distance that you may as well be squinting at a swarm of primary coloured ants, swimming in a visual soup partly of your own making, your swiped commands lingering long after you’ve removed your finger. The soundtrack is equally busy in places, all but obscuring the beat you need to be so slavish to: any temporary inactivity is punished by a drop to Level 1, forcing you to shift troops that might otherwise be ideally positioned.
At its best, Orgarhythm’s disparate ingredients coalesce into scenes of thrilling tribal warfare, a winningly eclectic soundtrack stirring your men to march into battle. Too often, however, you end up feeling like your fragmented cabal: disorientated, frustrated and battered into submission by an unforgiving enemy, with little reason to keep on fighting.