While music games can come in all sorts of forms, it is unfortunate that the only incarnation that became truly popular is that of the relatively basic rhythm-based game, namely games like Guitar Hero or the flash-based Santa Rockstar Metal Xmas series. If you look a little deeper into the music game world however, you will discover that there is a significant quantity of games with much more inventive and interesting formats, and more importantly, games which offer up a variety of music wider than simply heavy metal or guitar-centric pieces. Many of us are unlikely to have come across a game which gives us control over a full orchestra however, which is why it is recommended that you check out Maestro, a full-on orchestra-conducting skill game.
Taking control of a full orchestra may be out of many people’s reach as a life goal, but Maestro can give you the next best thing, putting you in charge of layering some melodies as if you were yourself a musical maestro leading an entire orchestra.
Maestro begins by issuing you with an interface that looks similar in shape to a rainbow, with sections of varying colour representing different parts of the orchestra. Blue represents harp and percussion, yellow violins and violas, and red, pink, and green are horns, cellos, and basses respectively. Each colour is split into 3 sections numbered 1-3; these numbers represent the intensity of each part. Each colour can be found at some point on the musical stave below the semicircle shape, which acts as your guide when the music is playing. The aim of the whole game is to ensure that each section of the orchestra is playing at the correct intensity as the cue point triggers each section. It may sound like a breeze but when you’re juggling 5 different sections playing simultaneously at different intensities, it actually becomes quite the challenge.
With two scores to choose from, the game offers a fair amount of variety before you may start becoming tired of it. You’ve got a classical score that will be recognisable by all and a film score which is a little more lively and feels fairly authentic as a piece that belongs as a backdrop for some cinematic action. Whichever piece you choose to conduct, you’ll find yourself being challenged by the act of keeping a close eye on the score, adjusting the volume of each of the sections accordingly and also ensuring that sections are muted when they are required to be. It isn’t quite as complex or powerful a tool as Noteissimo, but is more of a light-hearted and (comparatively) basic orchestral experience. You can tune up your skills in practice mode, which allows you to play all of the sections without having to stick to a pre-prescribed intensity: this lets you play around with different volumes at your discretion.
As far as the interface goes, Maestro is a pretty simple one that isn’t quite as inventive as games of the likes of Glitchamaphone, but the interface lends itself to a challenging experience in spite of its simplicity, and it has enough professional polish to deserve its place in the BBC Maestro section of its website. The game is also fairly narrow in scope as well, offering only two different pieces to get to grips with. The problem is that this game is simply a tie-in with the TV series of the same name, and not an independent project that is intended to prosper on its own merits alone. Still, you will struggle to find a similar orchestral experience out there that offers you the chance to play around with an orchestra’s different sections in this manner, making this quite a rarity in terms of orchestra music games.