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Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure: Sega's Elite Beat Agents?

Join us for a tango in Paris...

"Bonjour! Rhythm Thief is un jeu mystère set à Paris! Oui! C'est true!"

It's fitting that déjà vu is a French expression - because we're getting a big Gallic-scented whiff of it. Wasn't it a mere two months ago our 3DS was playing host to France's capital city, in Konami's Layton wannabe Doctor Lautrec And The Forgotten Knights?

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And didn't we just liberate our snail-chomping chums from the dastardly clutches of the Russian Ultranationalists in Modern Warfare 3?

Well, prepare for another walk down the Place de la Concorde, because Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure is yet another digital take on the French capital.

LE BEAT GOES ON

As you may have gathered from its title's fairly transparent usage of the Character Name & The Adjective Noun structure, this is another puzzly wannabe with its eye on Layton's crown. But, to be fair, Rhythm Thief's rather liberal use of rhythm-action stages does a good job of marking the two apart.

In our hands-on session with the game's opening chapter we dance on the Arc De Triomphe, rhythmically dodge security guards by hiding behind statues at the Louvre, and evade a group of rollerskating policemen by running across the rooftops of the city - in time to music, of course.

The controls change for each section: dancing's about stylus swipes, hiding's about tapping a quadrant on the touch screen, and policeman-dodging is about button tapping. The frequent switches keep you on your toes - but also doom you to retries as you try to figure out what on Earth is going on.

Between these bits, there's the puzzling. Our protagonist, the mysteriously monickered 'Phantom R', can wander round a charmingly recreated present day Paris, chatting with the inhabitants of the city.

One interesting mechanic sees him recording sounds to use as puzzle solutions. A kooky old inventor wants to hear the sound of 'gushing' for the new instrument he's making - so we go and record (by tapping on it) a fountain. Later, we need to get past a voice-activated lock in the Louvre, so we record the sound of a sleeping guard's snores.

The solutions are very specific, but these bits are definitely more interesting than the other major mechanic we saw - randomly tapping on bits of scenery in order to unearth collectable medals.

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There's certainly an interesting blend of styles here, but we're going to need to see more of the game before we decide whether it's going to be magnifique.

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