A critique of musical history | TheXboxHub

Music has a fantastic storytelling ability, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that from the rhythm action games that came out in the last decade or so. From let’s sing for just dance for Hatsune Mikuif you make music on a console, it’s often just to produce tracks, or to vaguely experience what it’s like to play on stage.

There have been some weird exceptions, but the most meaningful blends of pacing and story came out a very long time ago. PaRappa the Rapper, Um Jammer Lammy and Gitaroo Man were the Golden Age, though The artistic escape could argue that he got mixed up in something similar. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that games have lost their desire to be musicals.

In terms of presentation, A musical story looks nothing like those peak era PS2 games. It looks like it could be getting closer to 2021’s Jazz Odyssey Genesis Black, with clever, screen-printed visuals. But his closest cousin is PaRappa the rapper. The goal of PaRappa and A Musical Story is to take the player on a journey and use rhythm action – tapping on a pad in time to the notes – to enrich that story, and perhaps surf emotional peaks and troughs as you go.

A Musical Story follows Gabriel, a cannery worker in the 1970s who bears a passing resemblance to Jimi Hendrix, and similar dexterity with a guitar. He finds his mind wandering as he labels cans in the factory, dreaming about the crow that is the company logo, and filling time by creating riffs in his head. Away from menial work, he performs in a band with two friends, and their heads are turned by a contest in a distant studio called ‘Pinewood’ (it’s not clear if this is inspired by the real Pinewood Studios). So they jump in a truck and drive there with their heads full of dreams.

What follows is made up of twenty-five “episodes,” which take snapshots of their road trip and retell them as music. A circle appears in the center of the screen, showing a moment in the story, and the first layer of music plays. It can be a bass line, a drum backing track, or guitar noodles. After listening to this once, some beats also appear around the circumference and represent LB, RB or LB+RB button presses. Tap in time with these, and further layers will be added to the music, with different rhythms and instruments. After a few layers, the song will peak, an achievement will appear, and you can skip to the next of twenty-five episodes.

a review of music history 2

What sets A Musical Story apart is that there are no visual indicators of where you are in the music. In Rock band, you have the frets at the bottom of the screen, indicating what you should play and when; in Just Dance, you have the dancer. But A Musical Story decides to abandon them. It makes a lot of sense: without them, you have to Listen, anticipating when the buttons should be pressed. This means you’re playing the melody rather than the UI, which can often be the case with rhythm action games. You have to be on the beat if you want to be successful.

Does it work? Alas, no, that is not the case. At least it doesn’t work in A Musical Story. His problem is that the soundtrack doesn’t have much predictability or pattern. The genre’s touchstones here are ambient rock, jazz, and psychedelia (folk makes an occasional appearance), and these genres are just too dissonant and unpredictable. Without the crutch of a “You Are Here” dot, it becomes incredibly difficult to follow the rhythm of the music or memorize it.

If the music in A Musical Story dropped the “mood” a bit more often and found a groove instead, it might have led to a better result. The early episodes, for example, have a propulsive feel and are much better. The last episodes: not so much.

a review of music history 3

To A Musical Story’s credit, it recognizes when you’re fumbling around like a drunken busker and helps you out. A dot appears after four or five misses and you can begin to chart your place in the song. As with many of these “you suck, let me help you” mechanics, sometimes you’ll want them, other times you’ll be insulted by them. But it will take you to the end of the song.

It can’t overcome A Musical Story’s other design problem, which is that a single missed note means you’ve failed. The musical pieces are reasonably short, no more than a minute or twenty or thirty notes, so it’s not like you’re wasting a lot of time, but it’s Is means that an error in opening one or two notes means that you have automatically failed and must wait a minute to try again. There is no point in playing the remaining notes, because everything is binary: you win or you don’t. This becomes a compounded annoyance, especially since the first note is the hardest to hit: you often can’t tell when the first note will start, as there are no indicators to let you know. Plus, the snippet will start immediately at the end, giving you no time to adjust. You missed the first note simply because there was no breath.

This suite of niggles makes A Musical Story a little painful to play. But we are not convinced that it would have been greatly improved if they were resolved. It’s because of the story, which has some cool tricks up its sleeve, but is otherwise unremarkable.

a review of music history 4

The road trip the band takes forms the entirety of the story, and not much of note happens. It’s a bad trip in many ways, as they get high and have conflicts between the groups, but that’s really it. It’s part Kerouac, part Easy Rider. There’s a good point where A Musical Story confronts a gaming cliche that pretty much every other game adheres to, but otherwise feels flimsy. Nowhere is this more true than the middle third, where the levels focus on the scenery rather than the events. Should there be so many levels dedicated to trees, crows and rain?

But we are not complete philistines: there is something to admire in A Musical Story. Separate the music from the game and you have an eclectic and effective soundtrack. It’s probably worth listening to Spotify alone. The visuals are also superb: while simple, they can convey happiness, menace, and Fantasia-like synesthesia in a jiffy.

It’s hard to deny the craftsmanship of A Musical Story. The psychedelic soundtrack and dreamy visuals are excellent independently. But we’re in the game review business, and here’s where it falters. It’s a rhythm-action game that fails to get you into a rhythm, and its innovations only add to the noise. A Musical Story is only worth buying if you’re incredibly curious about a psychedelic rhythm-action game.

You can buy A Musical History at Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Music has a fantastic storytelling ability, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that from the rhythm action games that came out in the last decade or so. From Let’s Sing to Just Dance to Hatsune Miku, if you make music on a console, it’s often just to produce tracks, or to vaguely experience what it’s like to perform on stage. There have been some weird exceptions, but the most meaningful blends of pacing and story came out a very long time ago. PaRappa the Rapper, Um Jammer Lammy and Gitaroo Man were the Golden Age,…

A review of music history

A review of music history

2022-03-01

Dave Ozy





Benefits:

  • A fantastic psychedelic concept album
  • Simple but clever
  • At times when it gets you in a groove

The inconvenients:

  • Too rhythmless to be an effective game
  • The story winds, literally
  • Tries to innovate, but doesn’t really work

Information:

  • Many thanks for the free copy of the game at – Digerati
  • Formats – Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC
  • Reviewed version – Xbox Series X
  • Release date – March 4, 2022
  • Introductory price from – £12.49


TXH-score



3/5

Benefits:

  • A fantastic psychedelic concept album
  • Simple but clever
  • At times when it gets you in a groove

The inconvenients:

  • Too rhythmless to be an effective game
  • The story winds, literally
  • Tries to innovate, but doesn’t really work

Information:

  • Many thanks for the free copy of the game at – Digerati
  • Formats – Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC
  • Reviewed version – Xbox Series X
  • Release date – March 4, 2022
  • Introductory price from – £12.49

User rating:

Be the first !