Music Catch, a daring experiment from Reflexive Entertainment, is a game based around the simplest of simple mechanics: collecting stuff. All you do is move a little orb around, grabbing the shapes that pour forth from a rotating white line. Green/blue shapes are worth points. Yellow shapes increase your point multiplier and make your orb grow larger ("Yellow shapes are good!" the game yelps at you during the nearly unnecessary prologue). Red shapes cut your multiplier in half ("Red shapes are bad!") and shrink you back down. Purple shapes are the Holy Grail—they temporarily grant you a vortex that sucks in all the good shapes and gives your score a massive injection. Your goal is to pull down the highest point total you can within the game's four-minute life span.
That wouldn't be much of a game by itself, but the whole thing is set to music—a transcendent classical piano piece (by Reflexive staff member Isaac Shepard) that could hold your attention single-handedly. The shapes appear in ebb and swell to the accompaniment, diving from foreground to background in a shifting aquamarine rainbow. You'll never catch them all; the most you can hope for is to ride the wave, soaking up as much as possible, darting for extra substance where it appears. In other words, the gameplay is much like listening to an enriching piece of music.
No, really. The gameplay is like listening to music. Having to avoid the red shape ambushes is a bit of a stretch, maybe, but the rest of the metaphor is fine. Really great music forces you pay attention, to follow the thread of mood, to surf. If you move through the music skillfully, you gradually swell up—with emotion in real life, with mass in the game—even more so if you can anticipate where the composition is going next. Perhaps the red shapes represent a loss of concentration, the way you can lose your grip on a song and work to re-attach yourself.
Music Catch for iPhone/iPod Touch!
Maybe there's no intended metaphor at all. The high score medals, and the overly enthusiastic words that appear when you get a special shape ("Yikes!" "Fantastic!" "Purple Power!") suggest that the whole thing is meant pretty lightly; or else Reflexive lost confidence at some point and decided to make it more traditionally game-like. But regardless, there is something deeply stirring at the heart of this shallow, four-minute excursion; something that says
from this. Nothing more.
Take your deepest breath,
and it will move you.