Gamescom 2013: Fantasia: Music Evolved Hands-On Preview – Move to the Music
Written Tuesday, September 03, 2013 By Lee AbrahamsView author's profile
Walt Disney, it seems, was a little bit mental. Who else would have been obsessed with the idea of marrying some classical music alongside Walt’s own magical animation? It was an inkling that was probably way ahead of its time in 1940, with theatres having to be kitted out with special speakers at an exorbitant cost, in order to ensure that the musical odyssey was just so. It certainly had a few detractors and yet, in the here and now, it seems like the perfect choice for a potential game. Bring in music game experts Harmonix and we may finally have a Kinect game that has a bit of longevity.
In truth Fantasia: Music Evolved (not to be confused with Halo: Combat Evolved; totally different I assure you) is probably a lot closer to Disney’s original project than the film actually was. Walt had the idea of constantly evolving the show, by adding in new songs and animations every few years in order to make Fantasia a different viewing experience each and every time. The new game can do that same thing quite easily, with up to date music settling in nicely alongside classical fare and players able to manipulate songs in drastically different ways.
Obviously such a daunting task of updating a Disney classic is not one to be taken lightly, and Harmonix was given full access to the Disney archives in a bid to create a game that was a spiritual successor to the grand old original. In the words of Walt himself, it needed to be “an adventure in colour, sound and motion,” and what better way to achieve that than via Kinect?
The premise is fairly simple. You take on the role of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice - a position previously made famous by a certain mouse - and have been tasked by your mentor with bringing fresh life and energy to a series of worlds he has created. You do this through a mixture of playful tasks, ideal for younger players, and orchestrating the thirty songs that are tucked away across the varied landscapes. The game has been clearly created with the younger audience in mind, as you can never fail a song in the traditional music genre way, and most of the other in-game interactions are charming and yet fairly simplistic in their execution.
The level we were shown was the Hollows, which starts as a dark, foreboding forest shrouded in snow and ice. Players are given control of the ‘muse’ which is basically your on screen companion that you direct in order to interact with the world around you. Sending the muse skittering around the screen lets you interact with icicles and send them crashing to the ground, with a tinkle of music accompanying your every move. Everything you interact with releases a smidgeon of magic that you can then use to activate previously dormant song nodes. Playing a song allows you to then bring the world to life in a unique way.
Each song plays out as if you are conducting an orchestra in time with the music, with flashes of light having to be dismissed in the right direction, via a flick of your arms, or held in place when required. Different effects pop on screen that allow you to manipulate the music as you choose and at certain intervals you can change the colour of the on screen lights, which also has the effect of drastically changing how the song plays out. So you can play Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, but then add in a symphony score, before switching to heavy metal or some dubstep. The song shifts to your choices with the tempo and on-screen prompts swirling to match.
It’s a neat idea and one that should be easy enough for anyone to pick up and play without having the crazy skill levels sometimes required for rhythm games. Plus, the shifting nature of the game means that you can remix each performance in a drastically different way every time, or just choose to stick to the original music if you so wish. It means you should never really get bored of going back to the same songs, and certainly opens up countless opportunities for the inevitable DLC.
Once a song is over you hop back to the world you were in and can then hit a newly formed transformation key, which will shift the world around you. The forest now lights up a little and a small sea monster emerges from the lake, messing with him drops more magic and throws out a horde of little critters for you to toy with as well. You can then open another song and continue the process, only next time a playful yeti emerges that will play hide and seek with you amongst the trees. A semi-invisible bobcat also prowls the wilderness until you spot its footprints and give it a stroke. Every action helps you towards unlocking the next song and furthering your progress in the Hallows. You can seek out a second yeti for a musical game of Simon Says, fuss with the bobcat some more or play with your hidden yeti pal. You can also hop back into any song you’ve completed and remix it in a new way or enjoy a bit of local multiplayer with a friend.
In truth Fantasia has slipped under the radar, probably due to the very fact that it is a Kinect game, but with the rock solid expertise of Harmonix on board this has the chance of being something very special indeed. The musical choices take in a range of genres from classical to modern day, and the remix modes ensure you can play them time and time again. Tutorials will help new players to pick up the controls, but things seem very intuitive and the worlds you are tasked with exploring are full of hidden Disney Easter eggs and nooks to explore. The game is full of the typical Disney charm and inventiveness that the company is famous for, and it is certain to keep kids entranced for hours. Adults too can enjoy beating their own scores and creating and sharing their own funky remixes with friends.
This is a title that took us quite by surprise and could well be the killer app for the new Kinect, at least for Disney fans (which is pretty much all of us, right?). The mixture of fun tasks, exploration and puzzles with a very well done core musical experience can only bode well. Expect Fantasia: Music Evolved to be lighting up your living room when it launches in 2014.