The first time I played Dance Dance Revolution, it was on Dreamcast. I didn't have a dance mat, so I used a controller. It wasn't quite the same experience, but it was still surprisingly fun. That's how it feels to play Step Evolution's first iOS release, ReRave [1.99]. It's like playing a dance game with your fingertips, and it doesn't lose much in translation.
Step Evolution comes from a dance game background, having worked on series that include In the Groove and StepMania. But this isn't a dance game crammed into an iPhone. They put a lot of care into ensuring ReRave makes sense on a touch screen.
ReRave uses the full screen for interaction instead of scrolling dots from above. See that power-button symbol in the app icon? Prepare to get very familiar with it. Symbols like it pop up everywhere and start rotating. As each one hits the peak of its rotation, it needs tapping. Or holding. Or tracing. Colored markers indicate which action is needed - a quick tutorial will give you the basics. A good sense of rhythm will help too, as you're doing all these things to the beat of the game's music.
The music is typical of dance games - poppy electronic, club and house tracks. There are three included, and they're certainly catchy enough, but you can pick up free song packs from the app's song store if you're looking for more variety. Currently there are ten songs available before the game starts dipping into paid IAP, and Step Evolution seems to put out new tracks regularly. The premium songs have to be bought in packs, but they all have previews and listed difficulty levels so you'll know what you're getting.
Each song has three tiers of difficulty, ranging from manageable to pretty chaotic. Your performance is ranked with a letter grade and scored on leaderboards. If that isn't enough to keep you coming back, the game has a boatload of achievements to earn. Game Center achievements track your success with accuracy, timing, placement and grades, with a few gimmicky entries (including one for purchasing IAP). Dozens of extra in-game awards track more unusual accomplishments, like quitting songs out of frustration or playing non-stop.
I have to point out a flaw: ReRave's look. The interface is great - clean, colorful and easy to use. But once you're actually playing, the visuals get a little dull. For a game that's pulling so much inspiration from dance games, the lack of background animations is disappointing. Even the symbols seem a little boring and out of place with the game's slick interface. Everything does what it needs to, but without much pizazz.
A bigger concern is how cramped the game looks and feels on the iPhone. Smaller fonts verge on tiny, and it can be hard to see new symbols popping up under your fingers. Like any music game, ReRave benefits from headphones, but the jack really gets in the way. You could get around the problem by rotating the phone, so hopefully Step Evolution will add that option in a future update. At least on iPad everything fits comfortably and plays without a hitch.
Not to be too negative - I've really enjoyed ReRave, particularly on iPad, and I keep sneaking more time with the game to try to get better scores. In the long run, I expect I'll be hoping for an Insane difficulty mode more than I'll be worrying about the game's look. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go back for one more try at "Beep Beep Boom."
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