A great exercise in procedurally-generated game design, but not really much else...
Musika from Parappa the Rappa creator Masaya Matsuura is an interesting experiment in game design and is an enjoyable enough $5 download, but don't believe anyone that tries to tell you it's the next Snake. I mean, honestly... come on.
But let me back up a bit. The download is really half game, half music visualizer. When you play a music track already on your iPod inside Musika, letters will materialize in various ethereal ways. They'll blow in like leaves, fade in in puffs of smoke, ripple into solidity, and more. If the letter is in the title of the song, you hit the center button. If it isn't, you hit left or right to skip it and move onto the next letter.
It's an interesting take on flexible game design. While it's true there are three difficulty levels (which determine how much time you have to react to each forming letter), the true difficulty is determined by the length of the song title. "Hardest Geometry Problem in the World" from the Rushmore soundtrack was an extremely hard song to get through without failing, while obviously something like "Oh Yoko" from that same album was much easier.
Scoring is multiplier-based to the extreme. Every letter you get correctly adds one to your multiplier, while just one miss wipes it out entirely. I had a x45 multiplier at one point. The score doesn't really do much but provide the letter selecting with a goal, but it does show off more of the game's flexible design. When I entered the high-score table and saw my scores on the various songs I'd cleared, that's when it truly struck me that every song ever was a potential musika level. Neat!
Another neat, unexpected side effect was that I actually did better on my favorite songs than with songs I wasn't especially fond of. This was surprising, since the game isn't rhythm-based at all - knowledge of a song doesn't make you better at recognizing the letters in its title. I guess listening to something one enjoys has a psychological gaming benefit.
It's an interesting download, but ultimately Musika doesn't really do enough to elevate itself out of novelty status. For the same price you can get full-featured, genuinely great iPod games like Zuma, Vortex, and Mahjong, among others. The idea of "any song as a level" is extremely exciting as someone that is a big fan of the rhythm genre, but what I really want to see is someone with talents like Matsuura's to create an actual rhythm game out of the concept. Imagine procedurally-generated rhythm beats instead of just picking letters.
What's Hot: Infinite number of "levels." Selectable Difficulty.
What's Not: It's mostly just a novelty. There's no just no meat.