R-Tap for the iPhone and iPad was launched over the weekend, giving gamers a slightly different take on the usual rhythm game mechanics. Even if you're not into music games, you might want to check out a contest hosted by R-Tap in the forums for a chance to win a free iTunes gift card.
The classic mode gives you the option of 4-6 lanes of tapping on easy, medium, or hard difficulty. If you're feeling particularly gutsy, you can crank the gameplay speed up to three times the default. Individual tracks also have a difficulty rating out of ten stars. Once you pick your song, you'll be launched into gameplay that looks pretty much identical to Rock Band: targets will drift down the tracks from the top of the screen in time with the music, and you'll have to tap those lanes as they reach the target zone near the bottom of the screen. You're scored based on how accurate your tapping is, and if you can nail long streaks of notes, you earn multipliers and can eventually enter into an extreme bonus mode for a limited amount of time. The standard tapping is complicated by some sustained notes where you have to hold your finger down or swipe into other lanes.
R-Tap's biggest selling feature is their Run mode, where instead of the Rock Band-style layout, you pick one of three characters to run down a futuristic lane, and you have to tap the screen at the right to get them to destroy the incoming notes. There are still upwards and downwards swipes that make your character jump or duck, but you're still only dealing with one lane of notes.
The music selection is mostly ho-hum. There was one track from each of Ke$ha, Chris Brown, and Adele, but the rest were completely unrecognizable. Regardless, the quality of those tracks are reasonably good given the game style - there's a lot of electronic and club music where you aren't perpetually distracted by foreign lyrics. Most tracks cost a dollar of the in-app currency, but you can also pay the equivalent of 3 cents to play a track through once.
The only real attention to graphics seems to have been given to the avatar models in Run Mode, and even then, their attack and jump animations are choppy. The low frame rate of the ground is particularly jarring. Many parts of the user interface is blocky, if functional. Of course, none of that really effects the gameplay itself - touch input is responsive, and the pace can be blistering once you get good enough to climb up the difficulty ladder (see the video below for an example). That said, it would be really nice to have additional filters and browsing options when looking through the music library, such as sorting by difficulty, and hiding songs you don't already have.
R-Tap's core rhythm gameplay is actually pretty good, and with a high ceiling on difficulty, there's a lot of replay value. However, there are way too many things that surround the actual game-playing that make R-Tap less than awesome. The music selection is dismal. The avatars in run mode are badly animated. The menus and user interface are basic and bland.
The only thing really going for R-Tap is its free price point, but even then, the Tap Tap games offer a much wider variety of music, more progression, and greater graphical polish. If you're willing to spend money, Rock Band Reloaded for iOS still delivers the best rhythm game experience available even though it's a year old. If you've overplayed Tap Tap, R-Tap might be a nice change of pace, but overall, I can't see any reason to switch.