The music industry often refers to a chart entry that has risen to the top with unprecedented speed as “number one with a bullet.” Tap Tap Revenge was released alongside the AppStore last July and went on to become the iPhone's most downloaded free game on 2008. If that doesn't say number one with a bullet, I don't know what does. Now the franchise is back for its third major instalment – but does Tap Tap Revenge 3 hit a high note, or does it fall flat when compared to its predecessors?
The gameplay itself hasn't varied much from previous releases, as Tap Tap Revenge 3 maintains the same accuracy and precision that we were delighted to find in Tap Tap Revenge 2. Like most music games, the Tap Tap franchise is all about tapping notes that fall from the top of the screen as they enter a special section at the bottom. It's a formula we've seen time and time again in games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. One might be quick to judge the Tap Tap series as just another copycat music game, but such judgment fails to take into account the tweaks that make this game a perfect fit for the iPhone.
Rather than cluttering up such a small playing surface with four or five buttons, Tap Tap only has three that you'll need to tap. It's an excellent design choice that lends itself well to the system. Holding the iPhone in both hands with your thumbs on the two outside buttons is incredibly comfortable, and only requires you to move one thumb in to the middle column to handle everything that's presented. Depending on the different combinations of notes you'll get, you'll be working both thumbs back and forth from that middle spot over and over.
On the harder difficulty settings you'll also need to tackle notes that come in the form of arrows. These arrows mean you'll need tilt your device in the direction they're pointing. It's a nice touch – especially for those that have mastered the button presses – but it required a little too much of a tilt to the left or right for us to be able to properly execute it without missing a few button presses in the meantime.
Tap Tap Revenge 3 also brings back the series popular multiplayer modes. And while the game now offers a fairly successful online mode, the tried and true 2-player local co-op is still where the best multiplayer is at. 2 people can compete on the same iPhone at the same time as the game will create two separate windows, one upside down on top of the other, so friends can stand face to face with the iPhone in the middle. It's a great little idea, and one that's always surprised me that no other games have tried.
In addition to all of the above, which can all be found in previous iterations of Tap Tap Revenge, the game brings a few new things into the fold. First, and most noticeably, is a career mode that offers and RPG-style levelling system. Each song you complete earns you experience points, and you'll level up once you obtained so many of them. With each level you reach, more songs will become available to you. Likewise, unlocking specific achievements will open up new songs as well. The levelling system comes tied in with a new avatar system where you'll be able to purchase clothing, haircuts, etc.. for your digital self with coins earned from completing songs.
Regardless of how top notch a music game's gameplay might be, the real sign of a great title is it music selection. With a seemingly endless supply of songs available for free, Tap Tap Revenge 3 doesn't fail to impress. Our only complaint was with how many of these songs were from relatively unknown artists. The flipside of course is that most of these artists were great anyways, so our lack of familiarity was really a blessing in disguise. Tap Tap Revenge 3 feels a little like a mix tape by an audiophile friend who wants to turn you on to some amazing artists. Sure there are tracks by well known artists like Hole and Skinny Puppy included for free, but I was just as delighted to see indie wunderkinds Cold War Kids make the cut. If big name acts are more your style you'll be delighted to know that a variety of big artists have downloadable track packs available at incredibly reasonable prices. Everyone from Elton John to Fallout Boy is represented, with new songs being added every week.
In addition to allowing in-app purchases, Tap Tap Revenge 3 also allows you to import songs from previous premium versions of the game. While you can't bring your Tap Tap Revenge 2 songs over, you can import from premium releases like Tap Tap Coldplay or Lady Gaga Revenge. Tapulous is promising that they're working at supporting all premium content in future updates, so you can expect to bring the music from popular releases like Tap Tap Dance and Metallica Revenge into your Tap Tap 3 track listing in the near future.
There's no doubt that the Tap Tap series has been at the forefront of iPhone music games since first launching alongside the AppStore in 2008, and Tap Tap Revenge 3 is no exception. With the addition of in-game purchases, an RPG-style levelling system to unlock new content and customizable avatars, TTR3 is both a welcome addition to the Tap Tap family and a bold step forward for the popular music series.