Feedback in Rhythm Games – Rhythm Heaven

I’ve played, listened to, and even composed music throughout my life, so I love music and music-based games. Rhythm games are like playing an instrument, but much easier. If you get immersed enough in a song, it feels like you’re a part of it.

However, one of the frustrating things about rhythm games is their snowballiness if you miss a note. Missing one note can cause you to miss the next; you can ruin a whole song by getting slightly offbeat. Often they have no real way to tell how far off of the rhythm you are, only that you aren’t hitting the notes right. Most rhythm games such as Rockband have the notes scrolling across the screen too fast to really tell how much you missed a note by. This means that you sometimes miss one note and then miss several more while readjusting yourself to the song.

Rhythm Heaven Megamix solves that problem in a pretty cool way. It’s on the 3DS, and it’s one of the few games I’ve seen that actually take full advantage of the two screens. The visuals of the game, or the “notes” you’re playing, are on the upper screen. That screen has birdies you’re rallying in time to the music, pineapples you’re catching, frog dancers, and other typical stuff like that. The feedback is on the lower screen in the form of colorful explosions.

When you get a note exactly on time, it has a rainbow-like color explosion right in the middle of the screen. If you are slightly early, it shows a smaller yellow explosion on the left, and it’s on the right if you’re late. If you miss the note, the circle turns red but still appears on the left if you’re early or right if you’re late. The two screens let you see this immediate feedback with your peripheral vision. With some skill and practice, this means that you can immediately adjust for how far off rhythm you are without having to wait for the next measure or some other way to readjust your timing.

Obviously not every rhythm game has two screens like that, but some rhythm games could be improved by having slightly better feedback on missed notes. Sometimes it’s not even obvious whether you missed the note at all, although some games do have the song get quieter when you mess up to help with that. What do you think? Is that lack of feedback an interesting challenge, or would some rhythm games be improved with more? Tell us in the comments.