I’ve talked before about the beauty of simple mobile games, and how polar opposite content-packed AAA titles run the risk of losing fun quality in favor of shiny graphics or ear-candy sound design. But my polarization of the issue has lately made me disillusioned that all games on the App Store fall into one of those two categories, with no “grey line” in between. Hip Hop Berserker taught me otherwise.
Hip Hop Berserker totes the simple mechanics of an on-rails sidescroller, but has an outer shell covered in aesthetic polish that glints with a shuriken-esque shimmer (I will be using ninja-based metaphors later on. Deal with it, grasshopper.) Triple A art aside, though, how does it play?
The game mixes traditional sidescroller gameplay with a directional swiping/tapping mechanic, not dissimilar to popular music game Dance Dance Revolution (except you won’t be stepping on your iPhone to hit prompts). Each of the game’s levels runs a song in the background, as directional prompts move towards a “sweet-spot” circle. Correctly performing the requested action makes you slay one of the myriad of foes rushing towards you. Incorrect actions, on the other hand, earn you a blade to the back or a throwing star to the face, and even the strongest black belt can’t take too many of those.
The controls respond properly, and the mechanics fit the mobile platform well overall. Progressing levels does’t bring much variation to the core gameplay, so HHB tends to be a one trick pony. But it’s a really fun trick pony.
There is a story here, and although it’s nothing memorable, it manages to be lighthearted and funny (if at times a bit too juvenile) enough to prevent players from ignoring it entirely. You play as Sarroh, a “Hip Hop Berserker” who must fight through a legion of evil ninjas to rescue Lady Hip Hop from the evil Hu Man Dong (this sums up a bit of the game’s humor). The narrative is short, which probably is for the best, since too much elaboration could make the cheesy banter between characters become annoying, but brief animations keep this from being an issue.
“Listen well, and bob your head along, grasshopper.”
But stealing the show, perhaps even from the gameplay itself, is the game’s soundtrack: it’s superb. Although only boasting a handful of tracks, those selected are a gorgeous array of beats, which at times sound too epic for a humble mobile game. You’ll have a hard time NOT nodding your head along to the music, and the infectious sound quality of the tracks might just prevent a few from losing interest early on.
But even the most dedicated ninja will not find total satisfaction with this app, due purely to the game’s length. The game is short; containing only twenty levels, each a song’s length long. The only replayability stems from three different difficulty levels, but playing each doesn’t seem to unlock anything special. The content present is good, sure, but the game could stand to have more of it.
Also, there is a micro-transaction element present (ugh…), and perhaps most unfair of all, coins collected (or bought) allow you to resurrect if you meet an untimely end during a level. This being a singleplayer game, such revives aren’t a huge issue, but I can imagine some leaderboard warriors being upset by this mechanic.
Hip Hop Berserker won’t be sticking around in many people’s memories when beaten. And even those who do remember it will probably recall it as too short. But its rhythm gameplay is fun, it looks great, sounds superb, and even has a sliver of a narrative to round off the package. It’s worth a look; you just might be charmed by it.