April 29, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Review: Aero Synth Music Game Combines Pitch, Rhythm

Aero SynthMusic is based on structured rhythms, so when it’s delivered by an app, all sorts of possibilities exist for turning those into interactive elements within a game. Guitar Hero was one iteration of that idea, but it was really just the beginning, as app developers continue to explore the breaking down of musical rhythms into their basic elements for games, and to make more music.

Yudo’s Aero Synth for iPhone really does let you “play along with the music,” in addition to just reacting to it as one does with Guitar Hero. Over a fairly basic beat, a series of musical parts from electronica tracks scroll across the screen, represented by small orbs. A player’s skill is measured in two ways: the accuracy of taps when the orbs reach the edge of the screen, and of reactions to pitch changes (you tap higher or lower on the screen to reflect these changes).

It’s a game concept so simple as to harken back to Tetris, and we like the way it marries rhythm reaction to pitch perception. However, the somewhat long-in-the-tooth Aero Synth (released in November ’08) is weighed down by a few issues that make it a hard sell at $3.

Aero SynthFrom the start, confusion between the automatically-generated backing track and the synth track, which the player controls, makes this a quite difficult game.

An option to adjust the relative volume of the background music helps somewhat, but ultimately, electronic music such as what’s included here doesn’t lend itself well to this kind of game. Without rules and expectations of musical elements, such asguitars, bass, etc., it’s easy to get lost, musically speaking. When you miss a note, the track still often sounds like it could be a fully-realized albeit slightly simpler song.

Since you can’t easily work out when you have actually succeeded in hitting the musical target, you must rely on indicators of your success on the edge of the screen. This forces you to quite literally take your eyes off the ball in order to receive accurate performance feedback — and when you do that, you’re pretty much sunk.

The app has some potential though. If Yudo could build a version that allowed you to import songs from your own music library, or play with songs from other genre than just electronica, it could have a major winner on its hands.

Other smaller issues hamper what is meant to be a purely fun experience. For example, you can predictably only play the game with the iPhone on its side, which puts the headphone jack just where you want to hold the iPhone. If you don’t want to annoy the people on the seat next to you on the train with synth music blasting from your phone’s speaker, you’re forced to suffer this irritation.

All that said, electronic music fanatics (and perhaps more adept gamers than us) might glean some addictive fun from Aero Synth. At $3 though, most users will be disappointed.

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