Tapulous’ Riddim Ribbon – Hot Beat or Bust?

Tapulous’ Tap Tap series has always been one of the most popular titles on the iPhone. There is something gratifying about “playing” music where years of training isn’t required, and some months ago the developer proclaimed its development of a new, non-tapping app, called Riddim Ribbon. Well, the game is out and with social features and virtual goods, it looked very worthwhile.

The game is not your typical rhythm title. Rather than hitting streaming notes, players steer a neon colored ball down a virtual racetrack that is representative of a record in a DJ booth. The objective is to keep the ball on a brightly colored ribbon while collecting orbs and jumping through hoops (done via flicking the iPhone). As the music track plays, the orbs, hoops, and even the turns all correspond beautifully with the music.

Frankly, this felt like quite the innovative feature (though somewhat reminiscent to the PlayStation 2 title, Amplitude). The game looks like a racing game, but it is actually pretty tough to control like one. The ribbon shifts rapidly on harder difficulties and as you progress, there are a myriad of obstacles to avoid. If you merely use your eyes, you’ll probably end up losing, but if you listen to the beat, it is not only more gratifying, it is actually easier.

Nevertheless, the controls do take a little getting used to. Seeing as Riddim is on the iPhone, control is done via tilting and it takes a while to get a feel for the degree of tilts needed to steer.

This is actually where penalties come into play. Unlike the Tap Tap Revenge games, mistakes are actually detrimental to the music being played. In past Tapulous titles, missing a note meant nothing other than a lower score, but here, if you stray from the ribbon the music track fades into a distorted backbeat. Furthermore, the area off the ribbon is littered with obstacles that drain energy when hit (not to mention stop the music for a moment), disallowing users the ability to clear Checkpoints along the track. That’s right, it’s a Tapulous game where you can actually lose!

Regardless, the game has some other wonderful mechanisms, such as splits in the track where players can choose which DJ mix to play with, and special tracks they can ramp onto to garner colorful and euphoric looking special effects.

Socially, Riddim Ribbon was a little disappointing. It does come with global leaderboards, but it also advertised a live feed and avatar/profile integration. In Tap Tap Revenge 3, for example, players could buy stuff for their avatars, but when one goes to their profile in Riddim, they can merely edit some of the information. Moreover, the profile page offered Facebook Connect, but after finishing levels the “Share” button only leads to a friend challenge that brings you to your email account. Likely, this is because the game just came out this week, but here’s hoping an update flushes these features out more.

As with previous Tapulous titles, the game also comes with virtual goods. Now, these, obviously, aren’t things like furniture, but actually just extra music tracks to play. They can all be purchased from inside the game itself for $0.99 and consist of two tracks from Tiesto (Escape Me and Louder Than Boom) as well as one from Benny Benassi (Satisfaction). As you might imagine, this means the selection of music is very limited at the moment; the game only comes with three Black Eyed Peas tracks, including Boom Boom Pow, Meet Me Halfway, and I Gotta Feeling (it also has a Tiesto sample of Escape Me).

In the end, Riddim Ribbon is a fun and entertaining change to most rhythm games. The music and visuals synch up gratifyingly well, and once you are familiar with the control scheme will be scratching those digital records in no time. Nonetheless, the overall experience is brought down by the simple fact that there are not very many tracks to play yet (even more so if you don’t like the Black Eyed Peas). Of course, Tapulous will release more; that much is certain, but for now, the game may not be worth the $2.99 price tag for many people – not yet anyway.