Music on: Learning Piano
DSiWare | Abylight | 1 Player | Out Now | 200 Nintendo Points
Here's how the application works: each song has lines of staff consisting of music notes that, when put together, make up the melodies of the song. A needle will gradually glide across each line, passing through notes that are in place. The speed at which the needle travels is determined by the tempo of the selected song. As the needle approaches a note, it's your job to replicate the notes on the top screen using the piano on the touch screen. You can tell different notes apart by their specific placement on the staff, or by looking at the letter fixated just above each one. Similarly, most of the keys on the piano are labelled (including sharps) so you know which ones you should be focusing your attention on.
All of your actions will earn you points at the very end of your performance. If you can manage to get through the whole song without going too slow, or tapping the wrong notes, then you'll earn a perfect percentile. More realistically, though, one should expect to make a good number of mistakes before getting a good handle on how to play or mastering a song. Furthermore, incorrect taps and poor timing will show up with red-coloured notes. Get too many of those, and you can kiss your chances of obtaining a medal goodbye.
If you're really worried about getting thrown off, you'll want to take advantage of the game's "Preview" feature. Before each song begins, you'll have the opportunity to see a demo of what will be expected of you. The computer will play the song perfectly so you'll know exactly what you're getting into, and how quick you'll need to be. To that end, having a display that showed exactly what the tempo was for each song would've helped.
Learning Piano features 15 classical songs, including In the Hall of the Mountain King, For Elise, and other songs by such recognizable composers as Beethoven and Bach. Many of these need to be unlocked prior to use, but this is what gives you motivation to keep playing. Each song is split up into three difficulty settings: Bronze, Silver and Gold. To start with, only Bronze will be available. But once you meet certain requirements (i.e., scoring 85% or higher on a run), you'll be able to advance to the harder difficulties. Not to mention, too, that you'll have a shiny medal to show for it.
In an interesting move, the labels on the keyboard will light up as the needle approaches the notes on the top screen, serving as a helpful guide to help you follow along. Additionally, when playing on the Bronze difficulty, failing to enter the correct notes with proper timing will bring the song to a screeching halt. What this means is that the application will actually wait for you before proceeding. I thought this was an excellent feature, making this application even more approachable and user-friendly.
Needless to say, once you advance to later difficulty levels, these luxuries will be lost. In fact, on the Gold setting, you won't have any letters to go by at all. By this point, you'll need to understand where each note lies on the staff, and have good eye-hand co-ordination with inputting the correct ones. Then there's the Master level where you'll receive no aid whatsoever. But I'd say that there's a sense of progression that takes place that prepares you for both these difficulties. And although they may seem very intimidating at first, with time and with practice (just like the real thing), you'll gain enough confidence to give them a try.
The background MIDI-like music along with the feedback from the notes themselves are simplistic, but they do play out well. If you're familiar with the classic tunes (and more than likely you will be), you should be able to recognize it fairly easily, even without the polished quality. The organization of the application is also pretty simple, but decent enough to avoid any red flags. Overall, an average job all around.
Although it may not seem so at first, Music on: Learning Piano is a pretty good release. It does what it sets out to do, that is, help beginners become acquainted with the piano's setup, learning how to play a few classic songs in the process. The medal system means that sincere players should see ample reason to continue improving their skills for weeks to come. It's no substitute for the real thing of course, but this portable application still has a surprising amount of merit to it.
22/30 - Good
Functionality 8/10 - Includes keyboard and note labels, guides to help you follow along on Bronze and Silver, does what it promises to do
Presentation 7/10 - Straight-forward structure, average audio, errors represented by red music notes, user-friendly setup
Value 4/5 - 15 songs for only two dollars, medal system extends the experience, unlockables and multiple difficulty levels ensure there's quite a bit to do
Lasting Appeal 3/5 - Those who are genuinely interested will find there's enough to keep them motivated, sense of progression for beginner players
Equivalent to a score of 73% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)