I'm pretty sure that Universomo's Beat City, published by THQ (who supplied my review copy), was inspired by Nintendo's Rhythm Heaven to some degree. Both games present crazy scenarios on the top screen while you engage in stylus-based rhythm action on the touch to the beat of wholly original soundtracks. However, while Heaven runs a wide gamut of themes, City is a cohesive adventure from start to finish.

That doesn't mean Beat City lacks in the wackiness department—not in the slightest. By the end of the second game day, you—as the speaker-headed Synchronizer—will cue a young couple's whispered sweet nothings while a giant ape confuses an angry old man by using buildings as bongos, spread joy among the city's children with the help of an elephant who shoots ice cream from his trunk, battled evil mimes intent on poking you in the eyes Three Stooges-style... and, if you're like me, found yourself grinning and wondering what could possibly come next.

These events mark the battles in a larger war to free Beat City from the evil Cacophony Corporation. It's a cute story, told with almost no text, through brief comic-panel preludes to each minigame and at the conclusion of some days. Extraterrestrial flying marine mammal Groovy Whale spends the conclusion of each game day, made up of up to four minigames (there's 18 days and 20 minigames in all—each minigame comes in three increasing difficulty levels which you'll visit in the course of the larger story), climbing his own personal stairway to heaven, made up of the stars from your rankings.

As each minigame plays out, the scenes, full of characters and vegetation bouncing to the beat, change from drab to colorful. If you do particularly well, rainbows stream across the scene—getting that far will almost certainly net you a "WOW" ranking. I did get a handful of these in my original playthrough; most of the others I got three stars on. Even when a game didn't immediately click with me (some in particular have really fast cues for certain actions that tend to throw my sense of the beat off), I never felt in danger of failing a game; it's very generous in permitting failure.

The minigames are played with one or more of three core gestures: tap, hold (and release), and swipe. Some of the games work this scheme better than others; I had some trouble in particular with later games that rapidly alternated between taps or swipes, racking up misses for a swipe that wasn't quite one, counting as a tap instead; and vice versa. Practice, if it doesn't make perfect, helps some here, but I found myself digging the games that used taps and holds most of all—it was much easier to get into the rhythm. And when I really got into the rhythm, I had a lot of fun.

Once you've completed the story mode (including the epic final showdown), you're encouraged to go back and up your rankings for each one for a special ending. This can get a little tedious for gamers that tend to impatience like yours truly, given the loading screens that pop up nearly every time you click a menu item or better your ranking, but doesn't prove to be too bad. I still haven't completely finished this task—a few games' perfect ranks elude me—but I still pick at it when I get a free moment or two.

Beat City turned out to be bit of a surprise to find made for DS in light of the glut of licensed games and franchise retreads that make up most of its library now in its twilight. Even if its basic idea isn't completely original, it does it in a different-enough fashion to be worthwhile and fun. The tale told, saving the world and bringing color through music, is simplistic but charming—and it's got just enough silliness to make it work. It's only $20 and will last you a handful of hours even if you just breeze through the main story; it's good, lighthearted rhythm fare that—even though it can be a touch rough in places—makes for a pretty fun little game.