Plas­tic fan­tas­tic

Har­monix pairs up with Has­bro to rein­vent the mu­sic game pe­riph­eral


Har­monix and Has­bro join forces for a mu­sic-mix­ing card game

The in­dus­try’s con­certed at­tempts to re­vive plas­tic-pe­riph­eral-based mu­sic games in 2015 through Gui­tar Hero Live and Rock Band 4 were, in com­mer­cial terms at least, fail­ures. The lat­ter case, in par­tic­u­lar, proved al­most fa­tal for pub­lisher Mad Catz, which shoul­dered the ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ing risks as­so­ci­ated with the plas­tic in­stru­ments used for Har­monix’s game. The pe­riph­eral maker was forced to lay off al­most 40 per cent of its staff fol­low­ing poor sales. For that rea­son, Has­bro’s part­ner­ship with the sto­ried US mu­sic-game com­pany on DropMix, which al­lows player to mash up songs us­ing col­lectible cards played onto a chunky plas­tic mix­ing table, seems at once coura­geous and reck­less.

The starter pack, which will re­tail for a plucky $99.99, con­tains the two-foot­long board (which, at one end, con­tains a slot into which you place your phone or tablet), a free down­load of the game app and a se­lec­tion of 60 col­lectible cards. Each card cor­re­sponds to a dif­fer­ent hit song, split across four gen­res: pop, rock, elec­tronic and hip-hop. Place a card, and an iso­lated chan­nel of mu­sic from the orig­i­nal track be­gins to play, de­pend­ing on where­abouts on the board it’s played. A Tribe Called Quest card laid onto the blue card slot, for ex­am­ple, will pro­duce the song’s iso­lated drum track. Place the card on the yel­low slot, by con­trast, and you’ll hear just the vo­cal line.

DropMix’s magic oc­curs when you add a sec­ond card to the board. The game au­to­mat­i­cally splices to­gether the two sep­a­rate au­dio tracks from the two sep­a­rate songs to cre­ate an im­promptu mash-up. In this way, for ex­am­ple, you can lis­ten to Carly Rae Jepsen singing Call Me Maybe over a woozy bass line from The Weeknd, ac­com­pa­nied by a key­board line from a Child­ish Bam­bino cut (the list of artists who have loaned their names and mu­sic to DropMix is as di­verse and A-list as you might hope and ex­pect from a Har­monix game).

With 60 cards in the starter pack, and over 200 more avail­able in add-on packs and Panini-style ran­dom se­lec­tions, there are, Har­monix says, mil­lions of po­ten­tial mash-ups wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered. To un­der­stand the sheer scope of what’s on of­fer here, con­sider that play­ing the same five cards onto the board in a dif­fer­ent or­der will re­sult in a dif­fer­ent piece of mu­sic, since the first card played sets the tempo and key. The au­dio en­gi­neers at Har­monix, who have been work­ing on the game for the past two years, have hand-crafted many of the mixes, but the game, which is built in a heav­ily mod­i­fied ver­sion of Unity, also cre­ates the mash-ups via al­go­rithms.

DropMix’s cards are glossy and feel like pre­mium prod­ucts – vi­tal, given the price

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