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A Musical Story – funky, award-winning beat matching

Developer: Glee-Cheese Studio
Price: $4.99/£4.49
Size: 892 MB
Version: 1.0.5
Platform: iPhone & iPad

A Musical Story

A Musical Story recently won an Apple award for Interaction, which Apple only gives out to games and apps that have “intuitive interfaces and effortless controls that are perfectly tailored to their platform”.

That much is certainly true, but such a description threatens to overlook the one defining aspect of the game: music.

Our lovable trio

Perhaps best described as a narrative rhythm-action game, A Musical Story’s beautifully animated yet wordless vignettes tell the tale of an aspiring ’70s psych-rock band, from escaping dead-end jobs to fixing up a tour van and finding romance en route to the fictional Pinewood festival.

Your key inputs arrive through various beat-matching interludes, where the funky, chilled-out grooves of the soundtrack come to the fore. Tap out the notes to each element of the current piece in order – drums, then melodica, then guitar, for example – and the tune will coalesce, while the scene expands to widescreen.

The beat matching is very simple

The controls are indeed extremely simple and perfectly suited to playing on an iPhone. You either tap or hold the left or right side of the screen as directed. When you slip up, it’ll be through your own lack of rhythm and coordination rather than any fiddliness. No matter – just allow the song to loop around again and have another crack at it.

Cut scenes are packed full of warmth and charm

Indeed, there’s arguably too little of the actual beat matching for the game’s own good. You’ll likely nail each simplistic ditty within minutes, and it often feels like you’re whisked away to the next story beat just as you’re starting to get into the swing of things.

That simplicity and brevity, in conjunction with an intuitive yet abstract circular note diagram, never quite connects you with the music either. The best rhythm action games make you feel like you’re actively participating in the music, but A Musical Story can feel like typing in your passcode.

Fail a loop and you can take another crack in seconds

Thankfully, the audiovisual payoff makes up for the lack of mechanical depth. The game’s highly stylized cut scenes resemble something taken from a late ’60s or early ’70s album cover, which includes a heady mixture of purples, teals, and browns.

As we led off with, the music is the crucial component of the game, and it’s perfectly on point, evoking the psychedelic licks of the period whilst retaining a modern laidback groove.

The art style resembles a ’70s album cover

A Musical Story might feel more like an interactive narrative experience than a game, but it’s a trip that’s well worth embarking on nonetheless.