Music-game iPhone apps to keep you humming

Dec 14, 2009
Games

What was it Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan said recently? Oh, yeah: “Why should I worry about getting good at Guitar Hero when I’m already a guitar hero?” To which I might reply, borrowing from one of Corgan’s own hits, “Despite all your rage, you are still just a novice at games.”  Corgan’s pumpkin-sized hubris […]

What was it Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan said recently? Oh, yeah: “Why should I worry about getting good at Guitar Hero when I’m already a guitar hero?” To which I might reply, borrowing from one of Corgan’s own hits, “Despite all your rage, you are still just a novice at games.” 

Corgan’s pumpkin-sized hubris aside, the rest of us can find plenty to love when trawling the iPhone app world of music-specific games. As a studio musician and record producer, I see nothing wrong with good, clean sonic fun via phone. And I don’t mean ringtones, either; you can tune into some worthwhile games with minimal effort—though music games, much like pop artists themselves, are not created equal.

With Tap Tap Revenge 3 (Tapulous, 99 cents), the Tap Tap folks have drummed up fun again, with their latest version of the time-keeping game that features songs by the Killers, Tiesto, Stroke 9—and yes, Smashing Pumpkins. Battle online and create your own avatar, a visual altar-ego or image that stands in for you. If you’ve ever played Guitar Hero, you’ll get the hang of it in seconds, as you tap colored circles in time to colored discs floating down three alleys.

In its video console form, Rock Band has coaxed some famous bands on board, including The Beatles. Rock Band‘s (Electronic Arts, $6.99) price tag usually marks $6 more than I want to pay for games. So is the extra cabbage worth it? Sure thing; its Quick Play mode feels close to the arcade version where you touch guitar frets or drums in time to music. Some cool tunes here, too, by the likes of Blondie, the Go-Go’s … and Smashing Pumpkins. (Do I sense a theme here?)

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LUMINES Touch Fusion (Q Entertainment, 99 cents) is techno-rock meets Tetris blocks in this game where you touch cubes and rotate them into stacks where colors align. LUMINES takes some getting used to, and moves fast at even the basic level. Yet, it is strangely addictive, what with that sounds-kinda-like-Moby loop playing in the background. It’s basic but fun, in a dance-club sort of way.  

Because Drums Challenge (MusiGames Studio, 99 cents) involves beats you must repeat in the same manner as a kid’s flashing color sequence game, sitting through the tutorial—which Drums Challenge made me do—insulted my intelligence and tested my patience. What’s more, a grating bass guitar played in the background. Can you imagine what Keith Moon would say about not getting to pick his rhythm section partner? I just want to bang on the drum all day, not have a metal bassist grate on my ears. 

 “Tranquil yet tantalizing … puzzling yet peaceful.” Sounds like a New Age camp for existentialists — either that, or EA’s narrative for Auditorium (Electronic Arts, $2.99), a game where you send colored streams into block containers to create melody and harmony. Enjoyable indeed, except for the smarmy, ashram-inspired instructions: “Take a deep breath, relax and start playing.” Ugh: Makes me wanna knock someone’s chakras out of alignment, Where’s that angry Smashing Pumpkins mojo when I need it?  

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Lou Carlozo

Former Chicago Tribune DVD columnist, current music critic at Christian Century, paid blogger/columnist for AOL's WalletPop and True/Slant ... but most important, a proud owner of an iPhone 3Gs and one of the first in Chicago to own a duo-core MacBook Pro laptop. Flash back 30 years; my first computer ever in 1979: an Apple II.

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