Abylight's Music On: Playing Piano is the fifth musical outing from the Spanish developer, and one that takes a slightly different approach to its predecessors. In some ways that works out to its credit, but without the fun of free play it comes out slightly behind others in the series.
Whereas Music On: Learning Piano gave the player simple sheet music to play along with, Playing Piano goes for an even simpler method of notation: coloured bars scrolling down towards the keyboard on the touchscreen. Yellow bars indicate white keys and red bars denote black keys, with the scrolling notes matching up with the appropriates notes on the piano. All you have to do is tap the right key when the note touches it: that's really all there is to it.
At first you only have a small selection of songs, but this soon grows to 15 pieces varying from Camptown Races to La Cucaracha as you accumulate points. The first time you play a song it will be on bronze difficulty, with the tune played slowly to allow you to familiarise yourself with the melody; the next time you can choose silver, then gold, both of which are faster than the previous level, until attaining the level of master where the song is played at full tempo.
In some ways this staggered difficulty works – piano novices are less likely to be put off by such a slow start – but anyone wanting to jump right in will be frustrated as songs must be played at least three times before they are "mastered" in the game's eyes. All but the final two difficulties pose little challenge for adept keyboardists or just those with good reactions and timing, although the songs do increase in difficulty as you proceed, but the DS's lack of multi-touch means there's really only so far this can go.
New songs are unlocked after certain points milestones, but you'll soon have all 15 tracks available to you after just four or five playthroughs of one song. The selection itself isn't bad, and 15 certainly isn't a bad number for a 200 Point download, but sadly the musical arrangements are disappointing. The instruments are MIDI quality with the exception of some poor drums, but the music fails to make the sensation of playing come alive, and that's where the game falls flat.
Whereas the Music On: Keyboard titles gave you a set of keys and the freedom to tap away at a melody as you saw fit, and Music On: Learning Piano gave you proper sheet music to learn, Music On: Playing Piano gives you neither freedom nor transferable musical knowledge. It's a passable way to spend 200 Points, but whether you're an experienced player or not it's the weakest of the series so far.