With the 2012 Summer Olympics kicking off this week in London, we are hopping on the Olympic bandwagon and looking at a few Olympic-themed apps — Piano Summer Games (by JoyTunes) is one of them. This Free, iOS Universal, Music game app encourages you to play the piano through a fun Olympic-themed, interactive rhythm and timing game that combines real piano key elements with musical note reading. This game will have you eager to train for the Piano Summer Games Olympics by learning and practicing the many national anthems, which will prepare you to compete against other gaming “pianists” around the world to bring home the gold, silver, and bronze medals.
There are 40 different national anthems to choose from to play on either a virtual (iPad) piano keyboard or your own real piano (using the iPad’s built in mic to listen to your playing). Just so you’re not intimidated, these songs are accompanied by fantastic concert music, so no matter how badly you may do initially, you still come out sounding pretty great. This app has a very well done user interface with lots of helpful features and information to get you started: Tutorial, F.A.Q., Support, and About. During this piano game, you earn golden note coins by successfully playing throughout the 2 different game modes: Volleyball, which is an easier mode for those with no musical training at all; and Archery Mode, which introduces real staff line and sheet music notation. Upon successful completion, you get to unlock more anthems to gain enough stars that enable you to compete real-time for the gold (silver or bronze) and make it into the “breaking news feed” to receive your medals — and, let’s not forget that you may also go down in piano gaming history as the Piano Summer Games Olympic champion. So, Let the games begin!
Don’t expect your game character to be some svelte athlete because your fierce Olympic contender is really a tennis-skirt wearing, ball-smacking granny (but, she does have one mean bun on her head) — I see someone has a sense of humor. Even though I’ve played the violin for numerous years as a child, I have very little piano experience, so I chose the easy Volleyball Mode (using Touch Piano Mode). The cartoon-style keyboard, on the iPad, and game graphics are pretty nice — fitting the fun, casual feel. The keys range from mid “C ” to higher “C” and are marked appropriately (including sharp “#” keys). Just for fun, I ran my finger up and down, right and left across the limited number of keys (8) to warm up — it’s the Olympics, right? You’ll have the option to choose from the many national anthems available, and some of these also have an “Easy Version” ( like China, France, Germany, Russia, and United States). The developer, JoyTunes, states that different country anthems are automatically updated — and they are. I started out with the “Joytunesia” anthem provided by the developer, and played both “Learn” and “Play” modes.
Checking out the Learn Mode, I fared pretty well. This game mode begins with Granny crouched down in a poised-and-ready position ready to whack the balls when you strike the correct key at the right time (Granny is on top of a virtual keyboard, behind a volleyball net, on an empty court, but with a packed audience watching) Immediately, you will hear a metronome ticking as it keeps the pace of the beat count, balls begin to gravitate downwards to the top of the volleyball net line (know as the rhythm line). Volleyball shadows appear on the rhythm line/net line alerting you to the time and location of your next key stroke as you the “real” volleyball approaches the shadow to cover it. If you’re slow to grasp, Granny bobs up and down in mid air on the correct key (indicated by the red-colored key) showing you where to go next. Your Groove Meter (in the upper right) also gives you a visual for how you’re doing. Upon song completion, Granny makes a lightening fast exit and you are scored. My score: 95% Accuracy, 0 Hints, Final Score 97, 1 white star, and +10 golden note coins (displayed by the 2 sign-holding judges, along with a round of applause for a job well done).
The Play mode doesn’t have a ticking metronome to help you keep pace, the music plays at normal speed, but there is accompaniment music to go along. I have to tell you, Granny’s really hopping around now, and she no longer hovers over a red-indicator key waiting for your next stroke — in other words, you are on your own. My score: 38/38 Notes, 0 Mistake, 90% Timing, a Final Score of 32917, 3 gold stars, and +20 golden note coins. Feeling a bit cocky, I decided to play the anthem for Italy (which deducted – 40 points to unlock) — whoa! I got my butt kicked — it had an extremely fast beat count, lots of sharp key notes, and I didn’t keep up very well. This is one song where 2 hands on the iPad is a huge advantage. My Score: 133/146 Notes, 45 Mistakes, 61% Accuracy, Final Score 66512, 1 gold star, +32 golden note coins, a unison “aw” and a somewhat lukewarm round of applause. Guess I should have done the practice first.
Now, looking to really put myself to the test, I ventured into the advance Archery Mode and played Japan’s national anthem in the Learn Mode. You have many of the same helpful guiders as in the Volleyball Learn Mode (red keys, slower pace, and hesitation of music until you catch up), but Granny packs a bow and arrows now. You play moving left to right moving down a field. The musical staff is introduced with the notes bearing their true note letter/name placed on the proper staff line. You have to strike the correct key when the target reaches the rhythm line. As you strike the correct key, Granny fires her arrow hitting the bullseye target. My Score: 80% Accuracy, 4 Hints, Final Score 68, no stars, +0 points, and a big “AW” and an unenthused round of applause — I’m sensing a theme here — it’s all in good fun. Undaunted, I go to the Play Mode ending in a disastrous score. My score: 32/40 Notes, 12 Mistakes, 57% Timing, Final Score 16301, no stars, and +o golden note coins. If I really wanted to be self-deprecating, I could share my scores on social networks (available in the app): Facebook and Twitter — but I don’t. Once you get 5 songs under your belt in practice mode, you can compete real-time against others around the world as long as you have an internet connection. Competitions are limited in time and you’ll have 3 attempts with the best score winning. The results will post with winners receiving their rankings, the top 3 medal winners are shown, and the top dogs are placed in the “Breaking News” section, complete with catchy headlines.
Overall, I think Piano Summer Games is a really great musical game app, especially fitting with the 2012 Summer Olympics going on currently. It’s truly inspiring to hear each of the national anthems play (especially the US — I’m biased — of course), honoring athletes who have trained tirelessly and worked so hard to become the medal–winning champions they hope to be. The app concept for this iPad Music game is pretty slick by combining a competitive Olympic sport element with learning national anthems to create a fabulous way to encourage people of all ages to pick up and play an instrument — even if it’s just a virtual one. There’s really nothing intimidating about this app and the beauty is that you almost don’t realize that you’re practicing, because it’s enjoyable. How many kids can say that? Having played a musical instrument in childhood and also having played through several games in this iPad app, I can honestly tell you that it does offer a lot of practical music learning aspects (rhythm, timing, coordination, note identification, note reading, and proper note placement on keyboard). My only question now: Are you playing for the gold?
Piano Summer Games iPad App Download