Fan­ta­sia: Mu­sic Evolved

EDGE - - PLAY - Pub­lisher Dis­ney In­ter­ac­tive Stu­dios De­vel­oper Har­monix For­mat 360, Xbox One (ver­sion tested) Re­lease Out now

Build­ing a rhythm-ac­tion game – a genre that usu­ally re­quires pre­cise in­puts – around a de­vice like Kinect is fraught with risk, but Har­monix ev­i­dently wasn’t daunted by the task. Fan­ta­sia: Mu­sic Evolved is a dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion to Dance Cen­tral, yet ben­e­fits from its de­vel­oper’s ex­per­tise with the de­vice, of­fer­ing sim­i­larly gen­er­ous ges­ture recog­ni­tion and an in­tu­itive user in­ter­face. Rather than copying an elab­o­rate se­ries of dance moves, here you’re in­vited to push, swipe and trace, match­ing the rhythms, basslines and melodies of an eclec­tic sound­track. Os­ten­si­bly, you’re tak­ing the role of con­duc­tor, though the need to keep up with fast-mov­ing cues mean your ac­tions more of­ten re­sem­ble fran­tic semaphore.

There’s a thin nar­ra­tive mo­ti­va­tion for your flail­ing. An ir­ri­tat­ing nar­ra­tor and a cheer­ful as­sis­tant in­vite you to visit a se­ries of realms, com­plet­ing ob­jec­tives to rid them of a ca­cophonous in­fec­tion. Firstly, this in­volves reach­ing a cer­tain score tar­get in a song and un­lock­ing a new remix. Each realm also holds a few sound toys, as well as en­vi­ron­men­tal fea­tures that can be stirred into life by your hand. You might, for ex­am­ple, spin a carousel of sea­horses, be­fore com­pos­ing a jazzy drum fill by trac­ing your palm over a bed of per­cus­sive clams. The var­i­ous mu­si­cal toys are rem­i­nis­cent of Toshio Iwai’s though nat­u­rally lack the im­me­di­acy of a por­ta­ble play­thing – not least be­cause you’ll need to sit through a long load­ing screen for each realm

Col­lect enough magic frag­ments and you’ll un­lock a com­po­si­tion spell, used to fur­ther per­son­alise your per­for­mance by cre­at­ing loop­ing melodies, beats and ef­fects that play over sec­tions of the track. It’s a setup that favours im­pro­vi­sa­tion over mas­tery, though it’s hard not to feel un­der­whelmed by the re­sults. Pulling in­di­vid­ual in­stru­ments from three un­locked mixes is a more suc­cess­ful idea, akin to a mo­tion-con­trolled DJ Hero with a lit­tle more cre­ative con­trol. Sub­vert­ing clas­si­cal com­po­si­tions with mod­ern in­stru­men­ta­tion is en­ter­tain­ing, and the likes of Mus­sorgsky and Liszt are as wel­come on the track­list as The Flaming Lips and Bowie. Stir­ring alt-rock in­gre­di­ents into Vi­valdi’s Four Sea­sons works alarm­ingly well, though we think it’s go­ing to be a long, long time be­fore we drop dub­step beats into El­ton John’s Rocket Man again.

A struc­ture that re­quires you to play each song three times to un­lock its full remix po­ten­tial is prob­lem­atic, but in­evitably Kinect is the game’s great­est strength and most fun­da­men­tal weak­ness. Har­monix has low­ered the chal­lenge to com­pen­sate for po­ten­tial frus­tra­tion at missed ges­tures, but as a re­sult it’s far too easy to get a five-star rat­ing on your first at­tempt, while the knowl­edge that Kinect’s whims are likely to pre­vent a per­fect score dis­cour­ages re­plays. Fan­ta­sia is a novel twist on the mu­sic game, then, but one lack­ing the sprin­kling of Dis­ney magic its ti­tle prom­ises.

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