Imagine what would happen if Ouendan and DDR had a baby. A very strange-looking baby.
Leave it to Atlus to bring a quirky Japanese rhythm game to America. Already released in Japan as Ontama: Onpu-tou Hen, Ontamarama is a music game that requires multitasking of the Nintendo DS touch screen and D-Pad to play along with the beat of a Japanese soundtrack. A series of colored panels scroll across the top of the touch screen, indicating which direction to press on the D-Pad. The rest of the touch screen fills up with colored slime-looking objects which cause the similarly-colored scrolling panels to fill with a solid color when tapped, increasing their score value. Some panels are larger and require multiple slimes to be cleared from the touch screen to become filled. As a shortcut, you can draw a circle around a slime group that's all the same color to clear multiple slimes at once.
Coordinating the D-Pad dancing and the touch screen tapping was quite easy to do in the first level I tried, so much so that I asked for a tougher level right away. As if to show me who was the boss, I got one of the harder songs in the game, at which time I was promptly whooped. Hitting the correct buttons on the D-Pad to the beat of the music was easy enough, but I also had to make sure the slimes were being cleared. Coordinating this was really hard, especially since the tapping and circling wasn't fixed to any particular beat of the music. I could clear the screen any time I wanted, which made juggling the rhythm of the D-Pad and the disarray of the touch screen very intimidating.
I cried Ouendan on that stage and went to something that was medium in difficulty. Though it was hard to hear the music (despite a pair of big headphones and a quieter E3 show floor), I think that the music and the touch screen patterns may line up in a certain way, but that way must be discovered by the player to make the best run at a high score. Looking back, I don't know if such a thing was possible in the nightmarishly hard song that I tried out, but if Ontamarama is indeed designed in such a way, it may knock the socks off of Ouendan in terms of difficulty. Otherwise, the game is an uncoordinated mess.
I'm definitely interested in Ontamarama, though I would have liked more time with it to be sure about some details. Despite that, there's always room in my game library for a new music game, and based on what I've played so far, I wouldn't mind including Ontamarama in it.