While the music genre has ample representation on the App Store, it’s still somewhat rare to find games that actually do a good job creating dynamic levels based on your song library. Synesthetic ($2.99) looks to join the group offering a psychedelic experience based on your current song of choice. While there’s plenty that Synesthetic does right, some minor annoyances and setbacks keep the title from further excellence.
Like a lot of music titles, Synesthetic’s objective is pretty simple. You travel along an ever-moving rail with a variety of obstacles littered across the path. Your goal is to avoid the obstacles, accumulate as high a score as possible, and simply enjoy the ride. You’ll be traversing the musical roller coaster using your iOS device’s accelerometer capabilities. A simple left or right tip rotates the lane in that direction, with the controls actually working pretty well for a tilt-exclusive scheme. Gameplay-wise, Synesthetic feels more visualizer than actual game, but there are a variety of modes to try and keep you engaged.
Synesthetic offers three different game types that can be played while experiencing your music. The first, Flow, is the standard mode of avoiding the obstacles while building up your multiplier and score. Flux meanwhile adds colored gates to your travel line, with points and multipliers accruing faster if you pass through consecutive gates of the same color (while avoiding all other colors, which reset your multiplier). The final mode ups the challenge with a 3-star ranking system (hit an obstacle, and you lose a star, with the obvious goal being a perfect 3-star run). While each mode isn’t particularly deep as far as gameplay is concerned, they still get the job done as far as providing a diversion while you’re experiencing the crazy journey.
Visually, Synesthetic is just as trippy as the screenshots make it out to be. A variety of shapes in a kaleidoscope of colors do a great job keeping you enraptured. A smooth, extremely fast frame rate keeps the action moving. The experience almost elicits a sort of cell-shaded effect, which just looks really cool. It’s obvious that Synesthetic’s focus was to provide an extremely immersive environment, and it certainly succeeds in this regard. This is especially true for fast paced songs, which occasionally have you going so fast that it’s actually a challenge to process the information coming at you. My only complaint is the fact that levels mostly look alike, with little in terms of palette variety. It’d be nice to have more options to customize the colors and shapes, as it’d go a long way towards some variety.
Synesthetic starts faltering somewhat with some of its gameplay elements. While leaderboard support is built-in for each game mode, the sheer amount of possible songs means it’s likely that your preferred tunes have no other competitors. It also doesn’t help that I had multiple occasions of the game locking up while trying to even view the leaderboards. In addition, quite a few songs I tried didn’t seem to offer much in terms of visual synching. Sure, it obviously looks cool, but I found most levels focused more on the tempo and beat, and less on actual notes and rhythm. However, for the songs that actually did work well, I have to admit that it really was a treat experiencing the melding.
The best way to enjoy Synesthetic is to think of it as less of a game and more of a really cool way to enjoy your music. Sure, there are gameplay elements imbedded within the title, but they do feel more as an excuse to keep you engaged rather than the central focus of the title. In this regard, gamers looking for a deep or engaging game may not particularly appreciate Synesthetic. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to focus on the visual elements, as they’re a significant part of the game itself. If that ends up your fancy and you’re looking for a different way to experience your music, Synesthetic should succeed quite well for you.