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March 11, 2006

REVIEW: Taiko Drum Master

Back from San Francisco and an excellent Game Marketing Conference.

When I originally wrote my Rhythm Game Mega-Review, I didn't exactly go into a tremendous amount of depth on each individual game. So in my recent review for GameDAILY Family, I reviewed one of those games - Taiko Drum Master - more in depth.

Here you go...

My kids love Taiko Drum Master, Namco’s unique, Japan-themed rhythm game. While they don’t play it every day (thank goodness), it’s a great change-of-pace game that they like to play 2-3 times a month.

The Taiko drum peripheral doubles as the controller, and the kids got the hang of it pretty quickly. The sticks look like oversized breadsticks, but don’t worry, they’re a heckuva lot more durable.

While the song list isn't a mile long (you start with 20+ to choose from), it is wonderfully eclectic, containing a fun combo of pop/rock (ABC, Tubthumping, Walkin' On Sunshine), classical (Beethoven's 5th, William Tell Overture), TV show themes (Jimmy Neutron, DragonBall Z), and even the themes from classic Namco gaming hits like Soul Calibur, Ridge Racer, and, joy of joys, Katamari Damacy. You can also unlock new songs as you achieve more milestones.

Difficulty-wise, Taiko Drum Master is probably too hard for very young kids. Oh, sure, they’ll enjoy banging the crap out of the Taiko drum (who doesn’t?), but they’ll probably get frustrated when they don’t do very well and are greeted with a shrill voice proclaiming, “Stage Failed!”

My son gets the idea that he has to switch back and forth from the drum face to the rim, depending on the color of the corresponding circle, but his eye-hand coordination isn’t yet quick enough to clear any stages. But he still enjoys trying to play along to the songs.

For older kids, it will be challenging, as it takes a lot of concentration and eye-hand coordination, but if they take it slow and don’t jump to the highest difficulty setting too soon, it will be very rewarding to clear stages and unlock new songs.

When my daughter plays TDM, she gets an expression of deep concentration on her face, and she zones in on the music. And although she had some difficulty at first, she kept trying, and she has cleared several stages already. It’s very cool to see her do well at something that isn’t easy to do.

Mom and Dad should be challenged by this game as well. As I’ve self-servingly written in far too many columns already, I’ve been a drummer for over 20 years now, and it ain’t easy for me to clear the hard level stages on some of the songs.

Taiko Drum Master isn’t simply the drumming version of a “button masher,” where the point is to hit the buttons as quickly as possible in as little time as possible. There’s a lot of syncopation and complexity in the arrangements.

Obviously, since there’s banging involved, the game is noisy, so you’ll probably want to set limits as to when and where your kids should play, but in addition to the musical benefits, it’s a terrific outlet for the prodigious energies of children.

Don’t believe me? Then try this: The next time your kids come home from a birthday party, hopped up on raspberry fluff icing and red-hot marshmallow squirters, just plop ‘em down with Taiko Drum Master for a while, and let ‘em work off some of their sugar-fueled vigor. You’ll thank me for it.


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