Version Reviewed: 1.1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad
iPhone Integration Rating:
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What is O-Gawa? Well, it's....ummm....it's a lot of things...and nothing. Sorry to get all philosophical on you, but this is a distinctly Asian app, and in many ways it confounds traditional descriptions. It's part art piece, part toy and part musical instrument, and more. As if you couldn't already tell, it's also one of the more confounding, experimental "things" I've seen on the iPad.
O-Gawa is inherently confusing, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. If confusion holds too many negative connotations for you, think “discovery learning.” On first starting the app, it’s absolutely unclear what to do. There’s a pattern of what looks like dots in the center of a black screen; the only other things immediately apparent are a tiny blue dot and a tiny green dot. Like Alice stepping through the looking glass, your only path forward is to step out into the unknown and randomly touch the screen.
Doing so starts an incessant beat, which can easily be tracked by watching the dots in the center of the screen light up in sequence. Touching these can reset the beat or make it skip certain sequences. Oh, and those green and blue dots? They control volume and a phase shift effect, respectively. You only learn about any of this through direct experience with the app. There is no help file or any text guiding you. See what I mean about needing to be philosophical when approaching this app?
There is more to the app than just this one basic screen, however, such as a settings/beats-per-minute menu and the ability to change drum/beat samples to one of 15 variations. There’s also an editing mode, where you can customize your chosen beat in a variety of ways, and a very difficult to see control bar on the right hand side of the main screen that allows you to hold a particular beat or reverse the sound entirely. Again, there are no instructions on how to do any of this. The only way I was able to get anywhere was simple trial and error. If you are someone who frustrates easily, this might not be the app for you. I’m honestly still not sure what some of the virtual buttons do, but that hasn’t kept me from playing around with them.
I suppose O-Gawa could be used by someone who wanted a visually interesting way to manipulate beats in a club setting, but even though it has already seen several improvements and design iterations, it still seems more like a plaything than a serious tool. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun, but even at the relatively slight price of $4.99, the fun/frustration (take your pick) just isn’t worth it at this point.