App Reviewed on: iPad 1G
Graphics / Sound Rating:
User Interface Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
Pulse is a stylish rhythm game from the music game veterans at Cipher Prime. The release marks the studio's debut on the iTunes App Store, branching out from browser and downloadable games to seize the unique interface options the iPad has to offer. The result is a great-looking game that's almost perfectly integrated with its audio package, delivering a complete experience that will keep players entranced from beginning to end.
Pulse is divided into eight stages, each featuring a song that lasts between one and three minutes. A series of circles fills the center of the screen along with a colored pulse wave that travels from the inside out. Solid orbs will appear on these circles and begin to orbit. When the pulse wave reaches a circle, it lights up, meaning it's time to start tapping!
Levels are scored based on accuracy, displaying a percentage at the conclusion of each song. Missing taps is part of playing, so reaching 100% isn't necessary for completing any level. The difficulty climbs as each song goes by, spawning orbs that move more quickly, appear at the last moment, or that light up with other orbs, forcing multi-taps on a number of occasions. Settling in to the experience and using periphery vision is key to hitting that Pulse "zone".
Pulse is stylish in every way, featuring a visual presentation that's sleek, modern, and a bit sci-fi in nature. Smooth gradients, strong contrasting colors, neat visual effects like flying birds or bouncing notes, and plenty of smooth edges that beckon the eyes as strongly as the soundtrack calls to the ears. The musical integration is amazing, and tapping lit orbs imitates playing parts of each song, almost like the player is creating the music on the fly.
Volume one of Pulse comes up a bit short in number of songs, as there are only eight in all, clocking in with less than 15 minutes of music. Fortunately, the variety of styles is strong, featuring genres from techno to rock and even a creepy sort of ballad. The difficulty curve is tailored perfectly to the music, but the whole experience comes to a conclusion a bit too quickly.
In the end, Pulse is a game about reaching for perfection. Replaying levels and experiencing that zen-like trance when orb tapping becomes second nature is the true value of the game. Staring at the concentric rings, tapping on orbs in time with the music, and creating flourishes of visual flair is never a dull experience, and inspiring you to go back and perfect scores brings out the true power of the game.