“While the main game doesn’t hit all the right notes, Synthesia does contain a few clever touches.”Free
Making the leap from the desktop to iOS is Synthesia, a Guitar Hero-style app that promises to make you into a piano maestro (or at least help you learn a few songs). Upcoming notes fall down the screen onto a keyboard below, lining up with the keys that the melody requires. The app features 20 (150 with IAP) songs of several ability levels and provides a few playback options, including a mode where Synthesia waits for you to hit the right notes – a clever touch. For £1.49 / $1.99, the app also claims to be able to play back any MIDI file you download. Unfortunately we were unable to test this, but it is a fantastic and world-opening idea.rnrnThe proof is in the pudding, however, and Synthesia’s user experience, quite frankly, wasn’t music to our ears. First we roped in a piano novice, but he found the virtual keys far too small and struggled to hit the right ones. The keys don’t lock when you hit them either, so our beginner kept sliding off-pitch while concentrating on his other hand. You can zoom in to make the keys bigger, but then the more far-flung notes don’t appear on-screen. It’s hard to get the iPad in a comfortable position to play the virtual keyboard too, and the app is buggy when you’re trying to play onscreen, often pausing the game. None of this is conducive to anything other than a frustrating, tiresome experience.rnrnSynthesia also works with a MIDI keyboard, so we hooked up an IK iRig and dived in. But it was more bad news – though all the keyboard frustrations are removed, it’s far less obvious which notes you’re meant to be hitting, which is the whole point of the app.rnrnThis problem is somewhat solved by toggling on the included score notation, which highlights the notes that you're playing as you hit them. When combined with a MIDI keyboard, this becomes a genuinely useful tool, revealing which notes are written where on the stave. The sheet music covers half of the falling-note interface, however, making this feature feel somewhat isolated from the main game. In all, it's a neat idea, but for us it doesn't quite work.