Review: Tapulous Kings Of Leon Revenge
Tapulous's series of Tap Tap Revenge titles are without question amongst the most popular games released for the iPhone and iPod touch, owing as much to the company's deft licensing of popular music as its continued polishing of the apps' visuals and gameplay. Kings Of Leon Revenge ($5) is the company's latest release, and though it brings little new to the franchise, subtle refinements of the past formula make it a compelling game for fans of the band -- and possibly those who have yet to become fans.
Though Kings Of Leon Revenge preserves the exact same gameplay concept as its most recent predecessors, presenting you with one screen and three possible tapping positions—four during end-of-difficulty-level challenges—fine-tuning has made this particular title just a little more approachable than some of its predecessors. Tapulous’s prior games had you tap along to songs as dots crossed a tapping line, shake the iPhone or iPod touch in certain directions, and eventually trigger on-screen bonuses with additional non-rhythmic taps, but here, the easy level of difficulty keeps the tapping simple—hit one of the three or four positions on a given beat, no more, and don’t worry about shaking left, right, or up at all. Occasionally, you can shake a little to activate 8x point bonuses, and tap on stars to activate 16x point bonuses, but throughout the easy stages, simple tapping’s enough.
And oddly, Kings Of Leon Revenge winds up succeeding at something that its predecessors were more hit and miss on: making you bond with the music. Because the first six stages aren’t hyperkinetic or ultra-challenging, you get to actually feel your fingers hitting in time with the percussion, and sometimes hold a long note as a dot leaves an extended vapor trail on the screen. The pacing of the dots and the music matches up just right in these stages to make you feel like you’re interacting with the songs, even though your failure does nothing to the music, and little more than stop some of the overlapping on-screen animations and point tallies.
Add to this the occasional random 16x star bonus, and the more challenging four-position challenge stages, and you have a good, working recipe for both fun and building difficulty. Medium, Hard, and Extreme difficulty levels add simultaneous two-taps, arrow shakes, and eventually simultaneous tap-and-holds, two-holds, and three-tap-and-holds. Once again, this isn’t a huge difference from past Tap Tap titles, but the challenge builds more appropriately here by difficulty level. A very simple two-person Bluetooth battle mode is also included, essentially tallying points for two people on the same song, even when the song playback isn’t completely synchronized.
Kings Of Leon Revenge’s graphics engine isn’t a huge step up over prior titles in the series, but it does have a series of familiar enough overlays—a fairly plain screen at first, with translucent energy lines as you successfully keep the beat for a while, all in front of swirling background art, animated starfields, and pictures of members of the band. Everything’s 2-D this time out rather than forced 3-D a la Metallica Revenge, and washed in yellow and sepia tones, which isn’t quite as vibrant visually as in many prior Tap Tap titles, but the quantity of animation—repeated from stage to stage—is roughly as good as it gets without actually playing music videos or similarly high-bandwidth art in the background. The 10 included songs are clear and pretty good, taken from Only By the Night, Because of the Times, and Aha Shake Heartbreak. A news feed with tour dates, a chat room, and a feature to turn off the in-game arrows are also included.
One oddity in Kings Of Leon Revenge is its downloading scheme: the 17.1MB application arrives on your iPhone or iPod touch with only a portion of its tracklist—four songs—and you can’t complete any of the game’s difficulty levels with the four included songs; you have to download the other six tracks, for free but using the iPhone or iPod touch itself, after initial installation. This enables Tapulous to offer the game as a 3G download from the App Store, which now allows up to 20MB downloads without Wi-Fi, but boosts the game’s footprint later. It’s a smart enough idea to help boost sales of the game, but not the most convenient for the user.
Is Kings Of Leon Revenge a major departure from the prior Tap Tap titles? No. Apart from the additional publicity this separate application can garner relative to an in-app download for Tap Tap Revenge 3—which incidentally now offers the free sample track Notion if you want to see what Kings Of Leon Revenge looks like, albeit with minor graphic differences—it might as well have been a 10-song pack for the previously-released game… except for the addition of the four-line challenge levels. They’re a step above Tap Tap 3, but the Bluetooth mode here feels like a step behind Metallica Revenge’s. That said, fans will really enjoy being drawn further into the songs by the game’s small rewards for properly keeping the beats, and some—including us—may well wind up liking the band if they’re willing to sink $5 into giving them a first listen in this game.