Wii Music was outlined as one of the original concept titles for Nintendo's console. But with so many options for making music on your games machine available, can Wii Music really deliver anything new? We got our hands on the forthcoming title to find out.
Having gorged ourselves silly on Guitar Hero and Rock Band, we were at first a little dubious as to what Wii Music could really offer and things start off with a somewhat awkward feeling, being run through the tutorial with Sebastian Tute, your on-screen maestro chum, and a veritable twittering idiot. Combined of course with typical Nintendo cutsey graphics, it all seems a little silly, especially when you could be thrashing out Judas Priest on a rival machine.
Using the Wiimote and Nunchuck you are introduced to the various movements needed to play the selection of instruments, which break down into four major actions: piano key bashing, guitar strumming, violin bowing and horn blowing. These actions then translate across a range of 60 instruments, some you’ll know, like the cello, some will be less familiar, like the sitar, some will raise chuckles from the back row, like the galactic horn and cheerleader.
You are then launched into playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I know, I know, it’s a world away from Mötley Crüe, but it’s a song that fits well with the purpose of the tutorial - it is so well set in your music brain it is easy to play along with. Now you don’t have to hit particular "notes" as you do in other games - your real task here is sort out your timing and get the action right with the remotes.
It is fairly easy to pick up and you’ll be run through various instruments to get you started and given the chance to use some of your creative flair by going freeform. This is what Wii Music is really about and where it is markedly different from other big titles: you can do whatever you want.
You don’t have to worry about your performance, you aren’t judged against a linear scale based around how well you can press buttons. No, Wii Music gives you the opportunity play and make music. Ok, so you can’t hitch up your own instruments, but you can do whatever you choose. The various buttons will change the nature of an instrument, as well the ferocity with which you beat the drum or the angle at which you blow that trumpet.
Whilst you are making sweet music on the screen your Mii playing the instrument will copy your actions (such as trumpet angle) or perform more interesting actions to liven things up, which leads neatly onto another interesting aspect of the game: making your own tracks.
You can lay down your own tracks, either on your own with up to four friends. You simply select a song, and you are then given the opportunity to record each aspect of the song: percussion, bass, melody, harmony and so on. In each area you can select the instrument of choice and off you go. The result is some of the most fun you’ll have in front of a console: a musical car crash unfolding piece by piece in front of you.
Stupidity is encouraged by supplying you with options you wouldn’t normally pick: how about a cheerleader supplying the melody? A "catsuit" to meow at your command? Ok, so you might just go for the kettle drums and saxophone. Once you have your layers exactly as you wish, bursting with improv, you can package it up into a record sleeve, play it back and share it with friends as a complete music video.
As well as making your own music and playing along with tracks, you can also play a number of mini-games and there is no lack of things to do. You can also deploy your Wii Balance Board in the form of a virtual drum kit too, although we didn't get to test this option.
It might sound like a recipe for disaster, and perhaps it is, but there is something inherently lovable about Wii Music, something that taps into the X factor that Nintendo have captured in their console: it’s fun. Normally I’d claim that Gears of War is my type of fun, but I have not laughed so hard as I did playing Wii Music, and that says something.
But with Wii Music you get the feeling that the laughs might not last that long, especially if you don’t have anyone else to play it with. Those first few hours of gaming fun soon pass and you are then faced with that choice of trying to make good music, or putting it aside for the next time you have friends over.
It’s a welcome relief from the sometimes hectic pace of other music titles, where you can fail or let the side down if you lose your way in a track. Wii Music doesn’t take itself too seriously and that’s why it works. It is perfect for kids young and old to enjoy together and you can’t help but feel it will be a Christmas hit.