WiiWare | Keystone Game Studio | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now | 700 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer); Wii Remote and Nunchuk
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10th May 2011; By KnucklesSonic8
Set in a bubbly musically-inspired world, Violin Paradise tasks players with using the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk (or just the Wii Remote on its own) to simulate the behaviours associated with playing the real-life instrument. Up to 4 players can participate, getting together to work as a full-on music group. Coloured notes will scroll across each person's play area, and you'll have to use the Wii's motion controls in conjunction with button presses to clear as many notes as you can by the conclusion of each performance. It's a pretty sound concept overall.
For first-time players, the Training area will teach you the basic principles needed to play the game. There are three types of coloured notes you'll need to look out for during gameplay: blue, green, and red. In order to play these notes, you'll need to hold and release either the A Button, the B Button or a combination of the two with good timing. Alternatively, you can use the C and Z Buttons on the Nunchuk if you feel more comfortable that way. For zigzag lines, you repeatedly rock the controller back and forth in addition to holding the buttons required for the colour of the line.
Notes will appear either on the upper or lower plane within a given play area, requiring you to move the Wii Remote in a small arch-like motion to move the on-screen cursor up and down. If you've cleared the note perfectly, your character will smile and you'll hear a brief sound effect resembling a splash of water. While I did appreciate having a form of visual and audio feedback, having those brief sound effects was not the right way to go about it since it takes away from the flow.
There are four different roles you can play as in this game. The first three roles -- Violin, Viola and Cello -- are controlled as described above, where you make gestures and press buttons with good timing to clear notes. The Conductor, on the other hand, has a different purpose altogether. Although it may sound like an important role, playing as this character is actually the least involving of them all. Basically, there is a steady flow of music notes that come in from the top of a semi-circle, and you get to control the needle in the center to keep the song playing properly. To do this, you simply swing the two controllers back and forth in the air almost like a maestro, except not nearly as dignified.
Compared to the other gameplay styles, the Conductor role is very underwhelming, not to mention overly-simplified. With little-to-no player interaction to get excited about, this is the kind of character you choose if there's no one else to play as. But to be fair, if you have a group of people and one of your friends or relatives is younger in years, then this may be a good role for them to play as.
The game features some 50 classical songs that range in terms of difficulty and BPM. There are some recognizable picks that have been approached with a different musical take, like William Tell Overture or Swan Lake, but there are also some original songs created by the development team just for this game. If you just want to listen to these songs on their own, you can head to the game's Theater mode, but I honestly can't see anyone actually making use of this option.
At the end of each song, players will be graded on their performance and be assigned a letter grade. Obtaining an S Ranking on songs will unlock new songs and even alternate costumes for each of the four characters, in theory keeping you busy for days, even weeks to come.
What's more interesting than the songs themselves are the venues that you play in. There are different settings you can choose from, including an amusement park, a circus, and a casino. Each of these tell a story using very distinct and active background animations. To see so much happening all at once while the music is playing is a pleasure to see and it's also interesting to see how the stages change as the songs progress. Some of these seem like they came from a children's storybook because of how colourful they are, which bodes well for parents of younger gamers who can wrap their head around the gameplay structure.
But you know, when it comes down to it, all of this is really for naught when the game is, in truth, a very frustrating experience. Good luck getting the controls to work for you consistently for an entire song. No matter how hard you try to get things to work, no matter how many different methods you test out, nothing works consistently enough for the average player to clear most songs with the highest grade.
In thinking you're doing something wrong, you'll probably visit the Training area regularly. But when you realize that, for no fault of your own, the controls never work the way they should, feelings of regret will surely surface. This isn't a matter of having to "put up" with the controls or work around the system. No, they're just not well-made and because of that, any sort of gameplay structure the developers have worked hard to implement is undermined, leaving the game in a terribly depressing situation.
Naturally, all of these problems really interfere with the fun happy-go-lucky nature of the moving backgrounds. And it's not like the controls suddenly are more forgiving in a multiplayer setting. If anything, the flaws become more apparent in having multiple people complain over the controls not co-operating as they should. Ultimately, this leads to a situation that's more comparable to a school choir of nervous children who are trying to work with a hard-to-please teacher rather than a unified orchestra or band.
For kids who can't tell the major difference between doing well and not, I suppose it's something that can be overlooked, but that in itself doesn't mean the game is still worth buying. Aside from the special presentation values in the backdrops, the execution is flawed to the point that the whole game becomes a wasted endeavour.
I find it a bit upsetting that Violin Paradise turned out the way it did. Had the controls been rectified prior to release, this could have been a pretty solid title for families to consider picking up. But as it stands, the only thing worthwhile about this game are the good-looking backdrops which, of course, isn't sufficient reason to spend $7 on this. I'd recommend that you just spare yourself the disappointment and skip the game altogether.
15/30 - Below Average
Gameplay 3/10 - Controls are extremely flawed, makes it practically impossible to master difficult songs, four different roles to undertake
Presentation 8/10 - Lively backgrounds that tell a story, classical songs with a different sound, unnecessary sound effects, easily the highlight of the game
Enjoyment 1/5 - Conductor role isn't fun to play, lack of responsive controls takes all the fun out of the experience, kids will get taken in by the animations
Extra Content 3/5 - Lots of songs to choose from, hidden unlockables, multiplayer support for up to 4 players, not worth the price due to the flawed controls
Equivalent to a score of 50% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)