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Ontamarama Package Art
Noise Factory


Like Tamagotchi or Dragonball Z, parents may not be able to pronounce, let alone understand what all the fuss is about, but their kids will latch onto it with no trouble. Such is the case with Ontamarama, an introduction to the growing music/rhythm genre that's perfect for younger players.


Ontamarama manages to bring and hold together a wide variety of influences, from juvenile animé to pocket-monster mythos with a music and rhythm twist. Despite these varied influences, the look of the game remains consistent and Ontamarama pulls off the synthesis. From the colorful characters and the environments they inhabit down to the titular Ontama creatures, the world of Ontamarama is at once approachable, enticing and believable.


Appropriately, Ontamarama uses many music references, often in the naming of characters. There are the boy and girl protagonists, Beat and Rest, plus, arguably the best musical enemy ever concieved, The Ditties (complete with annoying ditty theme music)! Other musical names include, Club Gig, Suite, Rubato, Blast, Alto, Aria, Elegy, Poco and Diatonic. These terms are clever musical tie-ins that may go over the heads of younger players, but will bring a smile to those who are more seasoned.

The actual songs that accompany each stage are serviceable in terms of how they work with gameplay elements. Unfortunately, the music is not especially unique or memorable. While seasoned music fans will find this a bit disappointing, younger players will be more focused on the visual and gameplay aspects of Ontamarama.


Ontamarama has a charming, easy learning curve, thanks to various difficulty levels. This makes the game instantly approachable, especially for younger players. Like Guitar Hero, not only must the note be played at the correct time, it must also be the correct note. The four buttons corresponding to four different notes are mapped to both the d-pad and the face buttons for left or right-handed play.

As an added layer of challenge, notes may be "filled" by tapping the corresponding Ontama with the stylus. While not required in easy mode, it is necessary to get above a base score and can be attempted whenever the player feels confident enough with the other play mechanics, thereby creating the easy learning curve. In addition to using the touch screen, Ontamarama also uses the microphone by giving players a limited number of "breaths" that clear all Ontama on the screen.

The player is actually playing a part in the song, so aural feedback accompanies player action. Additionally, a tug-of-war white vs. black Ontama is featured on the top screen. The better the performance, the stronger the white side gets, the worse, the stronger black gets. While players must finish the entire song no matter how strong the white Ontama get, if the black Ontama get too strong, the performance can be cut short in failure.

Story mode is the backbone of Ontamarama. Sadly, at twelve songs it feels too short. Younger players will not mind so much as the seasoned gamer who's in for the long haul. That said, on a higher difficulty setting, story length becomes relative to performance and how skilled one must be in order to survive. Four other game modes flesh out Ontamarama beyond Story mode, including Challenge, Free Play, Tutorial and Shop modes. Challenge is a quick grouping of competitors based on a theme, while Free Play enables play of any song that's been unlocked. Tutorial mode is a great way to learn how to play, while the Shop lets players buy new songs and items with credit earned while playing.




Despite Ontamarama's relatively short story mode, options to increase difficulty, the pursuit of high scores and the Shop will keep players coming back for more. Ontamarama is perfect for younger players as a friendly, approachable gateway into the music/rhythm genre. It makes any player curious about other music and rhythm games, and that's a very good thing.

final score 7.0/10

Staff Avatar Paul Starke
Staff Profile | Email
"In Japan this was named a 'trouble bug.' (...Is it really a bug?)"

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