We've found our new favourite iPod game, and it's called Phase.
Phase is the first game for the iPod created by Harmonix, the same company that graced the world with the Guitar Hero franchise. And Phase shares more than a casual resemblance to Guitar Hero - or other music games Harmonix has made in the past like Amplitude and FreQuency.
If you've played any of Harmonix's music games, you'll have an approximate idea of what to expect. Phase is basically a rhythm-matching game - an updated version of the classic game Simon, in which you have to match a series of cascading notes by tapping out in time on your iPod's clickwheel.
When playing Phase, three positions on the clickwheel correspond to three targets on the screen. Notes, appearing as lit circles, descend from three parallel lines connected to the targets, and you need to press the corresponding positions on the clickwheel precisely as those lit circles pass over the targets.
Occasionally you'll see flowing "sweeps" that require you to slide your finger across the clickwheel.
Catching a lot of notes maxes out your streak "multiplier" enhancing your score. You also have a chance to boost your score by capturing all parts of sweeps and specially coloured bonus phrases. You'll earn stars along the way - catch enough, and you'll make it through a checkpoint. But if you fail to catch the required amount by the time you reach the checkpoint, you'll lose a heart. Lose enough hearts, and the game is over.
While Phase includes a small library of music, what makes this game truly fun is the fact that you can create and use your own playlist.
In fact, the first time you install the game, it will create a "Phase Music" playlist in iTunes that you can synchronise with whatever songs you like - stuff you've ripped from CD, stuff you've bought from the iTunes Store, or iPod-compatible music you've bought from other stores. Phase turns them all into gameplay levels.
The game also features a number of ambient environments as backdrops for the game play - everything from urban cityscapes to psychedelic fantasias rife with bug-eyed monsters. It's really trippy and delightfully fun - whimsical, colourful and eye-catching.
But what makes Phase so much fun is that it's going to be different for everyone. Some people might want some pounding electronica or rock-and-roll to get their hearts racing; others might find some mellow jazz or instrumental music to be more conducive to the trance-like state you need to achieve to find your zen moment in Phase.
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