Game Review

Music On: Retro Keyboard Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by James Newton

A step up

We've already seen Abylight's Music On: Electronic Keyboard application for DSiWare, a decent but flawed attempt at putting a keyboard in your pocket. Now the company's back with Music On: Retro Keyboard, and although it shares the first game's finer features and faults it's a better buy overall.

As with its predecessor, you're granted a two-octave keyboard that starts from C or F depending on which layout you prefer. There are touchscreen buttons to access higher or lower octaves, though sadly no way to do this on the fly, though you can use an ad-hoc pitch bend feature that gives interesting results.

One of the problems with Electronic Keyboard was the five voices were a bit hit-and-miss, but Retro Keyboard avoids this by using decidedly old-school sounds that will be instantly familiar to anyone who's ever gamed on a classic system: the triangle voice is straight out of Donkey Kong, for example, and other classic games have clearly inspired the other voices. Whereas Electronic Keyboard offered real-life instruments voices at higher sample quality, Retro Keyboard includes sixteen voices of lower sample quality that are just more fun to play with. In no time you'll be having a blast trying to recreate famous gaming tunes of yesteryear.

The accompaniment styles are all inspired by classic games too, though as with the predecessor there's no way to play a chord without using a background style which may frustrate some budding musicians. The record function is identical to that in Electronic Keyboard too, meaning no ability to layer voices in one recording. This isn't such a problem when trying to recreate old-school tunes as they tended to have limited audio channels, but it's still a shame.


With a retro-styled interface and sounds to throw any gaming fan into a fit of audio nostalgia, Music On: Retro Keyboard is simply more fun than the serious Electronic Keyboard. It still suffers the same limitations in terms of recording, and the DSi's lack of multi-touch is an issue that may prevent further releases reaching their full potential, but this is a fun little application that will entertain even non-musical gamers.

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User Comments (17)



Xkhaoz said:

Hmmm. I'll probably get one of these music apps on DSiWare eventually.



TetrisFreak said:

I agree with Xkhaoz, I will get one of them one day, I am not rushing, and I don't care to much for keyboards....I would rather have more games than Apps.



nickolai said:

Man, is there ANY reason why this shouldn't come out simultaneously in Europe and the US? I just don't get it.



James said:

@lenanena So they do! I clearly can't count (or read my previous review ) so I've edited this now. Cheers!



G-MaxiMillion said:

I can't believe I actually bought Rytmik... A portable retro keyboard for 200 points is atleast better than some fail attempt to make music on your DSi for 800 points. sigh



James said:

I've reviewed both Rytmik and these two keyboards. For my money, Rytmik is a more complete package if you're wanting to create music - it offers multiple channels, total control over samples and if you've got the time to get into it offers far more potential.

The Music On: series is really meant for noodling about and although you can create some nice little ditties it's not as powerful as Rytmik. If you want to make a full-length song, I'd go for Rytmik: if you want to have fun playing gaming songs, get Retro Keyboard.



Clavius said:

Both applications have different uses as you say, but you still put them into the same bag, even with the huge difference in price.

Comparing them is unfair, just like comparing a Minimoog (which is the most famous synthesizer in history, and it's monophonic by the way) to a modern software sequencer. You play and get ideas with one, then you sequence with the other.

My humble opinion.



James said:

Well I'm quite experienced at this sort of gig as I play keyboard and have a bit of experience with sequencing. You'll notice this review doesn't mention Rytmik and I only compared the two after a user question, which I think is fair enough. And you make a very good point - one is fun to toy around with and the other is for working with, I suppose, but for a review I think it's unfair to suggest buying both.

And yes, I don't give out 9s lightly, especially on DSiWare!



DeeEsEyeGuy said:

I'm not gunna lie. I was skeptical at first!
But soon after I purchased this I had an hour jam session that in itself was worth 2 dollars! But, I'm still waiting for Rytmik!



ramstrong said:

"...meaning no ability to layer voices in one recording"

True, but you can play the keyboard during playback for 2 tones performance, albeit not recorded. I like the retro better. Better voice samples to my ear. Then again, I like GBA sound option on HeartGold better.

I like Korg Plus better for making real music, so I won't be downloading Rytmik anytime soon.

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