App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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I’ve messed around with my fair share of music games over the years, and at this point I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve grown a bit tired of the same old “time the button presses” gameplay that’s typically associated with them. Now I’m looking for something new. Perhaps an adventure filled with mini-games and musical battles. Oh hi there, Arranger.
Much like Warren Robinett’s Adventure (an obvious influence here), the hero must wander throughout the land gathering items to unlock new paths. Also much like the original, the hero can only carry one item at a time. To make this mechanic a little easier to bear players can wander back to their home at any point and have their dorg (yes, dorg) “fetch” all the items they’ve acquired up to that point, no matter where they might be located.
Acquiring these items typically involves some form of mini-game that can run the gamut from combing fleas off of farm animals to helping an un-cool person figure out what to wear to a popular club. Although it’s not all about fetch quests. A key component of Arranger is the music; specifically the composition of music. Certain denizens need to hear a son before they cooperate, and these tunes vary in effectiveness based on the instruments selected. And, of course, new instruments can be found by helping out more people, thus giving more options for musical arrangements.
Arranger is absolutely bursting with quirkiness, obviously. The pixilated world is just rough enough to be fantastically nostalgic, the numerous mini-games are anything but repetitious, and the music is weird and absolutely wonderful. I was also really impressed with the way composition plays out inside a character’s mind as a side-scrolling SHMUP. Different instruments act as different “weapons,” and players must subdue the listener’s brain (literally) by bombarding it with tunes while avoiding their defenses. It’s so bizarre it’s brilliant.
And yet, for all of Arranger’s wonderful quirkiness it’s far from perfect. Very far, unfortunately. Neither of the two movement controls (D-Pad and Touch) are ideal for every situation and often get in the way at the worst times, and both of them have a tendency to make the “brain fights” something of a chore. I’m also not too crazy about being forced to carry one item at a time. The dorg helps, but there’s an awful lot of ground to cover and hiking to one location from another can become tiresome even without having to make a pit stop.
Arranger is the kind of game I love based on concept, but not so much based on execution. It’s a grand idea with lofty ambitions and deserves praise for trying something new, but it’s going to need a lot more polish if it’s ever going to be anything more than a quirky one-off.