7 Creative and unusual music based games

Recently there has been a whole slew of music based games, riding on the success of guitar hero. Don’t get me wrong, they are good fun but there are other ways of marrying music and games than simply pretending to play an instrument. Here is my trawl through games past and present to find the best music based interactive entertainmentfest.

7 Fluid

fluid

Where better to start than this Playstation 1 classic from 1998. It must have been a late night (probably after at least a few beers) when the people at Sony came up with this one. You control a dolphin that ‘swims’ through a variety of stages including underwater ruins, electricity pylons and strange cavelike tunnels to the sound various cool electronic tracks. All of these locations are just videos that loop in the background so you’re movements don’t really change anything but they do add some nice musical flourishes fitting in sweetly with the background music.

Even though the video for the stage is fixed, the audio is actually controlled by a sample based sequencer (which kinda looks a tiny slice of Ableton Live) allowing you to create your own tracks to play in the background. In fact in order to progress to new areas you had to enter the track editor. While the sequencer is very basic the included samples are of very high quality and most still sound pretty contemporary over 10 years on. Even though it is bizarre in concept and you may find yourself wondering on what level it is actually a game, it is still really good fun. Perfect for a chilled out moment where being gunned down by endless hordes of alien scum just doesn’t appeal.

6 Raycatcher

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This is the new kid in music gaming, as I write this its only been out a month or two, so I feel I should include it. Basically, it involves catching light rays of the correct colour on a spinning disc in the centre of the screen. The levels are based on whatever you chose play from your MP3 collection. Although, having said that, it feels more like you are just choosing background music… it is difficult to see how the level actually relates to the music. Still it is pretty and cheap, so you probably wouldn’t feel hard done if you bought it, it just doesn’t really live up to expectations.

5 Music Catch

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Sometimes less is really more. A 3 year old could understand this game … move your mouse around the screen to collect as many of the coloured shapes as possible. Avoid the red, and try particularly to go for yellow and purple, simples. The shapes are generated in response to the background music, which can either be the supplied tracks (which are reasonably high in quality but low in number) or something from your MP3 collection. This gives very good replay value but the simplistic gameplay means that this is going to be a “pick up and play for 2 or 3 songs every now and then” type of replayability, rather than absorbing yourself in it for hours upon end. You can decide for yourself whether this is a good or bad thing.

4 Frequency

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Frequency is probably the most guitar hero like game on this list… imagine GH colliding directly with the special effects department from Tron and you’ve got a reasonable idea of what’s going on. Essentially you travel down an octagonal tube on which each side represents a track of the music, entering the correct sequence of commands at the right time makes that track play and you can move onto another one. If you manage to get all of the tracks playing then you can jam along to the track with a scratcher or arpeggiator. It has a wide range of music, and while not every single song was to my taste, most of the tracks in there are good. You can also have a go at remixing the supplied tracks if that tickles your fancy. In general, it is good fun and very pretty in a trippy way.

3 Vib Ribbon

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Put this disc in your Playstation 1 and you are greeted with bizarre pseudo 3d white-lines-on-black-background graphics and a theme song that is so chirpy you feel like you need to summon all your cynicism just to deal with it. There’s no reason to be that cynical though, once you hear the rest of the games soundtrack (which is hard to describe except to say it is quite experimental and definitely Japanese) the theme makes sense, in context. Even if you happened to hate the soundtrack, all is not lost, you can take out the game disc and replace it with a music CD of your choice.

In terms of gameplay you have to guide vib along a linear level avoiding different types of obstacles that appear in time to the music. This is done by pressing a particular button or combination of buttons depending on the obstacle. It does have quite a steep learning curve, especially if you choose to use your own music but it also offers a fun and innovative approach. The music detection is pretty good (better than a few modern offerings) but not perfect, some tracks do generate levels that seem a little incongruent. For the most part, though, it does make you feel part of the music. I still see the odd copy lying around video stores priced at a couple of quid, and it is certainly worth that.

2 Auditorium

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Aah – Auditorium, a moment of calm beauty in a hectic world… its just a shame that I spend to much time pulling my hair out to truly enjoy it. Let me explain, Auditorium has a really simple concept, get the coloured beams of particles to the targets to the correctly coloured target to charge it up and make different parts of the music play. The level ends when you have all parts playing at once. To make this possible there a variety of objects you can drag around the screen to redirect the flow of particles: attractors, reflectors, splitters and the suchlike.

The rub is that while being visually and sonically beautiful (the orchestral background music fits perfectly) some of the puzzles may take a lot of time (and a small portion of your sanity) to solve. This isn’t an entirely bad thing though, the learning curve isn’t bad and having to actually think for a change is a little refreshing in today’s gaming world, perhaps even today’s world in general. It runs in a web browser so is to some extent system independent.

1 Audiosurf

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Audiosurf is, in my honest opinion, the best audio based game out there. If you haven’t heard of this runaway indie success from last year, you’ve been missing out. It combines brilliant game concept, music discovery and unlimited replayability based on your music collection. The game itself takes place on a track looking a bit like a simplified version of wipeout. The gameplay itself however involves collecting coloured blocks that appear on the track to form matching shapes on a grid.

There are a whole range of difficulties, characters (each with their own special abilities) and powerups that keep things spiced up. The music detection is excellent, producing levels that match the music in both tempo and feel. Try putting some Marco V on for a terrifyingly fun experience, pop on some Royksopp and expect a much gentler ride. They also have their own radio feature allowing you to play along with tracks from artists not yet part of your music collection. I like it so much I often use it to listen to my new tracks in a new light. The only (minor) downside is that it is only available through steam but I would go as far as to say its worth installing just for audiosurf.

Well there you go, 7 creative and unusual and creative music based games for your reading pleasure, hope you enjoyed.

Love and Peace

Dataphiles

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Comments
  1. Hello, it really interesting, thanks

  2. Awesome blog, it’s just like a game for me! It’s so infomative and usefull, thanks a lot! If you post more of this great stuff, I’ll visit your blog again!

  3. Only a smiling visitor here to share the love (:, btw outstanding design .

  4. Wow, fantastic blog format! How long have you ever been blogging for? you make running a blog glance easy. The full look of your site is great, let alone the content!

  5. Kymixx says:

    Beathazard #1 =P

  6. paradigm.pure says:

    Isn’t guitar hero the successor to frequency? Thought it went amplitude, frequency then guitar hero

  7. Shirley says:

    Not sure it falls under the “Creative” title so much, but http://www.buycheapmp3s.com/missing-tracks/ is fun none-the-less

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