On the PSP screen the silhouette of a small, spear-toting, single-eyed creature jittered and hopped across the screen left to right. To my right a woman dressed all in white smiled and pointed to the portable's square and circle buttons, repeating something in a gentle Japanese voice.
The woman looked at the screen, pausing, for effect, before clapping four times in a steady cadence. She pointed again at the buttons and then looked at me.
Smile. Clap four times. Pause. Repeat.
Ah! I watched the screen, noticing that the woman's pause was timed to a sort of sing-song gibberish coming from the game, the silhouette.
After the pause I tapped square, square, square, circle, to the beat of the woman's claps and my character hopped forward a bit on the screen, moving a bit more toward the centre of the screen.
Pause. Tap, tap, tap, tap. Pause Tap, tap, tap, tap.
Each time I tapped out the combo the character's pace sped up. And each of the buttons made a specific sound. One was Pata and the other Pon. Eventually he, and a few friends he picked up along the way, made it to the end.
The next level involved attacks, something I initially thought with the same combination of PSP buttons at the same temp. But to attack, it turns out, you want to tap out circle, circle, square, circle.
After tapping my way through that level I was faced with the prospect of choice. I had to decide when to advance my growing army of faceless, single-eyed creatures and when to shift, with a change in combo taps, to attacks.
By the fourth level, my smiling companion shifted from clapping to a sort of dance. She stood mostly still, bopping up and down titling her head side-to-side smiling. It was, I quickly realised, a great way to subtly help out players keep their rhythm in the game.
All too soon the demo was over, but I was left with the feeling that this was going to become a new favourite of mine. I'm not clear if the game will include more than the two combos I used to attack and move, but I suspect it will. And if it does the game will be simply sublime. The beauty of the game is that it's not just another rhythm game, it actually gets you thinking about music and rhythm as a means to an end. If I wanted to move I would tap out pata, pata, pata pon. If I wanted to attack it was pon, pon, pata, pon. It sounds simple, but the effect, coupled with the incredibly unique look of the game, was magical.
Of course, I also loved LocoRoco.