103. Elite Beat Agents

I don’t think it’s possible to play Elite Beat Agents and be depressed at the same time.

Released for the Nintendo DS, Elite Beat Agents is a rhythm game that features one of the strangest (and most brilliant) premises of any video game ever.

A specialized government agency is devoted to helping desperate people through the inspirational power of song. When a person reaches a point of critical distress, three agents in black suits and sunglasses arrive on the scene and…dance. Motivated by the agents and their fabulous performances, the person overcomes all obstacles and succeeds.

The gameplay in Elite Beat Agents consists mostly of tapping spots on a touchscreen to the rhythm of the music. In spite of its simplicity, the gameplay is engaging and satisfying.

Elite Beat Agents uses a bright, exaggerated, comic-book style. Its humor is quirky, and some of the situations from which the agents rescue hapless people are delightfully absurd.

Sure, they start out innocently enough: a babysitter struggles to keep three kids under control, for example, and a lost dog tries to find his way home.

Then the agents find themselves helping Leonardo da Vinci convince the Mona Lisa to become the subject of his next painting—and motivating white blood cells to cure an athlete before an important competition—and inspiring an ex-baseball star to rescue kids in a theme park from a fire-breathing golem.

The game becomes steadily weirder, and proportionately more awesome.

Each scene is set to a popular song, such as “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire or “You’re the Inspiration” by Chicago. If the colorful visuals, goofy humor and compelling gameplay were not enough, the catchy music settles it: Elite Beat Agents is an excellent game.

It’s also a fine way to beat depression. Apart from its jolly, silly style, the game takes a good deal of concentration. It’s awfully hard to be depressed and keep the beat.

That’s just the inspirational power of song.

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