Though music games can be a fairly enjoyable experience, their tendency to always come in pretty much the same format without fail can make them a little dull over time. That isn’t to say that console games like Rock Band or Guitar Hero are tedious themselves, but their almost identical format soon becomes a little bit repetitive and leaves you yearning for something just a little bit different to entertain you.
If music games are a must for you, then it could be well worth your while immersing yourself in the wonderfully innovative break from the norm that is Jacob and the Magic Piano. Yes it is another music game, but this is really where the similarities with other musical input games end because Jacob and the Magic Piano is a marriage of a variety of genres with music running through its core providing the means and opportunities to battle against the ghosts, by essentially attacking them with music that you have composed yourself as well as navigating the environment using platforms which form in time with you composition.
Even from the brief introduction above it should be quite obvious that this game is already distinguished from the music norm, and it shouldn’t surprise you that Nerdook Productions are the developers behind it. Attempting to explain the premise and format of the game is a little difficult (playing through the tutorial is most definitely required) but it is essentially comprised of two sections: composing and playing. This being primarily a music-based game, you will need to enter composition mode before playing through any levels in order to create a small piece of music that will help you out in the main play mode. Composing is achieved by simply using the mouse to choose chords and melodies by clicking the on-screen piano; these appear on the stave when clicked. Once your composition is complete (or once you have taken the fun out of it all by clicking “random”), you can enter play mode where the fruits of you musical labours pay off in a way that they simply cannot in straight-up online keyboards like Virtual Piano.
The main brunt of the gameplay consists of some tower defense/platform gameplay which blends together to form a hybrid genre that doesn’t exist anywhere else. As your composition plays, defensive blocks which correspond to the notes of your composition appear and attack the ghosts which are advancing and attempting to steal your stars. Depending on the nature of your composition, the various blocks appearing to attack the ghosts will either be successful or a failure: it is up to you to adjust your composition accordingly after experiencing it in the gameplay. Moving around on the screen is possible with WASD keys or the directional arrows, with your movements and jumps harming the ghosts when you are in close proximity to them.
This game is packed with variety not just in the almost endless number of forms your composition can take, but also the variation between the notes and the different boxes they create. Each box has a different attack, with one type shooting long-range arrows, one shooting bullets, and another being a flame-producing block. As well as these different in-level variations, you are able to upgrade between levels by choosing from a bunch of closed draws, a limited number of which can be opened after each level. Headgear, eyewear, your shirt, and your weapon can be swapped out, adding various levels of damage and advantage to your blocks and your character.
Design wise, the game is virtually flawless and has a simple but polished feel, great illustration, and a musical backing in between the levels that may draw a tear to your eye in a similar fashion to the sublime Music Catch games. The game is constructed extremely well, but if it has to be criticised then it shall be because of the length of time it can take to make a unique composition before entering into levels; this just means that it isn’t for the casual player, however. Overall this unique music-based tower defense game has no rival because its union of platform, tower defense, and music genres makes it stand alone in the flash-based gaming world and quite frankly blows the comparatively simplistic and repetitive rock and music piano games out of the water.