Ever since the iPhone launched, folks have been trying to pull off rhythm games on the platform. There have been successes, like the "Tap Tap Revenge" series, "Rock Band" and "Bit.Trip Beat," but no game has come close to creating a better rhythm experience on iPhone than "Groove Coaster," a new release from Taito.
Like most rhythm games, "Groove Coaster" relies on a simple mechanic: Tap the screen in time with the music, with the beat indicated by periodic icons scrolling across the screen. But there are a number of reasons why this game does the rhythm genre better than any iPhone game before it.
"Rock Band" on iPhone is a pretty impressive translation of the original game, but it's also extremely complex, requiring precise taps in specific locations. "Groove Coaster" doesn't care where you tap, so long as you've got the right timing. It's also played vertically, which makes it a great subway game, as you can hold the bar with one hand while tapping away with the other.
"Groove Coaster" comes from the same developers as the excellent "Space Invaders: Infinity Gene." The aesthetic is shared by both games, with an emphasis on clean lines and trippy visuals. Each music track comes with its coaster track, so instead of a static, scrolling bar you'll find the track winds and twists in time with the music, making the experience more intense. This can be a little disorienting at times, but it's much better than having a series of levels that look exactly the same, save for a palate change.
Another carry-over from "Infinity Gene" is the ability to earn experience and level up your character. Leveling up unlocks new features, like avatars with special abilities and different visual skins, giving you reason to go back and play earlier levels over again.
Right now, "Groove Coaster" costs 99 cents (though it'll go up to three dollars soon). At that price you're getting 21 songs, each with three difficulty levels. It's a staggering amount of content for that price, and if you're looking for more, there's an in-game store where you can buy more tracks and avatars. There's also Game Center support for leaderboards and achievements, if that's your bag. And, while they were at it, they tossed in Universal support, so it'll work on your iPad or iPhone (3GS and above).
There's absolutely no reason you shouldn't be hopping on the "Groove Coaster" bandwagon right now. It's a terrific game that should be enjoyed by anyone with ears and a finger.