| Musika

It's fair to say games aren't a crucial feature for iPods in terms of attracting buyers. For that reason, the gaming aspects of Apple's multimedia player have been distinctly low-profile, with new releases on iTunes rarely heralded by much advance publicity or hype.

Yet the iPod catalogue is building up steam slowly, including getting some original games to fit alongside the well-known casual brands that have come out from the likes of EA Mobile and Namco. The latest such brave title is Musika, an original iPod game that's the work of PaRappa The Rapper creator Masaya Matsuura. It's a musical rhythm game that wouldn't really work on any other platform, which is encouraging.

You start by choosing whether to play on your playlists, scored songs, artists, albums, songs or genres. It's all based on the music stored on your iPod, see. And it's delightfully simple. When a song's playing, you have to click the centre button whenever a letter flashes up on screen that's in the title.

If a letter comes up that's not in the song title, you have to skip it by pressing the skip back / skip forward buttons on the left and right of the iPod's scroll wheel. Mistakes put blocks on the song title, which you have to remove by getting that letter right next time.

Get every letter right five times, and you complete the song, building up score multipliers the more correct letters you get in a row. There's bonus icons, too, which can protect you against misses, passes and blocks.

Other than that, you can choose one of three difficulty levels: Casual, Active and Intense. And if that tires you out, there's a Visualiser option if you just want to kick back and listen to your tunes with added spangly visuals.

So it's straightforward, but how does it play? Well, Musika is… different. Which sounds like faint praise, so let us elaborate. It's a novel attempt to create a game that really makes use of the iPod's music features, rather than just shoehorning an existing casual game genre onto Apple's device. In that respect, it sits alongside the fab iQuiz.

What's more, it's pretty addictive when you first start, with the steadily-accumulating scoring system providing ample reason to keep pressing that button like a hypnotised lab-rat. And, of course, your music is the soundtrack, so as long as you haven't filled the iPod with stuff you don't really like, you'll obviously enjoy the audio side of Musika.

However, on the flip-side, the game itself is a bit lightweight and after a few plays you might find yourself getting a bit, well, bored. It doesn't quite nail the replayability factor, making this a game to admire, but not one to necessarily play for months.

Another niggle, although this might not apply to your music collection, is the added difficulty if you have lots of remixes on your iPod: try remembering all the letters in 'Perfect Exceeder (Vocal Club Mix)' for example. If your iPod is stuffed with wordy song titles, you'll get frustrated.

Still, this downbeat conclusion shouldn't detract from the fact that Musika is an intriguing idea for a game, and a sign that developers are starting to see iPod as a gaming platform in its own right, rather than just another place to pimp Tetris and Pac-Man.

So more of this sort of thing! Just with a bit more depth, please.


It's an innovative and well-realised attempt to create an iPod-specific music game, but one that unfortunately lacks depth and long-term appeal