Yesterday I mentioned the iPod game Phase in passing. Phase is a music game: you listen to a song and score points by pressing buttons in a pattern in time with the music. The cool feature is that you aren’t restricted to playing with the game’s built-in soundtrack: you can add any song from your library to the game. If that description sounds even vaguely interesting to you, it’s worth five bucks.
For me, the quality of the follow-along patterns make or break a music game. The patterns should be intuitive for a player with a good sense of rhythm. In other words, the challenge should come from following the patterns, not figuring out what they are. This is pretty tough, and an algorithm to generate them is quite a technical challenge. Here’s my experience.
House of Jealous Lovers, The Rapture. I boldly opened the game on “Medium” difficulty. The song was pretty fun to play, and the pattern kept the beat nicely. But it was very easy; I got nearly perfect accuracy on the first try.
Supernaturally, Nick Cave. I bumped up to “Hard” difficulty. I thought this song might give the algorithm trouble; in addition to the distinctive rhythmic figure, the loud songs on this record are compressed to hell. To my surprise, the generated pattern was fantastic and quite intuitive. This song was tons of fun to play, not the least because it’s so stirring and easy to get into. Man, I fxn love this song.
Tigerbastard, Mu. The pattern started off fine, but it sorta lost the plot during the break. I felt like I was just striking buttons at random for a while. Unfortunately the break is pretty long, and I got a little bored of this track. Being a masochist, I moved on to ..
Pygmalion, Venetian Snares. If you’re not familiar with him, this song might euphemistcally be described as “high information content.” I wasn’t sure what the algorithm would make of the complex and irregular rhythms. The pattern seemed a tad too regular during the frantic parts, but I’m seriously picking nits here.
Any flaws? It’s way too easy to press pause accidentally. My hand hurt pretty badly after three or four songs, but I have comically large hands and a comically small iPod.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the technology. The game is a fantastic time-killer if for no reason other than forcing you to pay more attention to your music.