We originally saw Maestro! Jump In Music on DSiWare where it went by the name Maestro! Green Groove. However, you might not be aware of the fact that this digital offering was actually a republished version of the original European physical retail release, which can be hard to come by these days. Despite some notable flaws and the obvious passage of time, this is still a title that is worth keeping an eye out for in the bargain bin of your local software emporium, as it serves as a timely reminder of just how inventive the touchscreen DS era was.
Maestro is a rhythm action game that stars Presto, a loveable pink bird who is trying to restore order to the world after the villain Staccato has condemned it to silence. To do this, you use the stylus to strum the strings that appear on the bottom touch screen in time to the music while collecting fruit as Presto runs merrily along. Sometimes you'll have to strum the strings from above to make Presto jump in the air, or from below for Presto to drop down a level.
Once you reach the end of a level you are given a grade, with a B+ needed in order to progress to the next stage. The gameplay is initially easy to pick up and a refreshing change of pace from other games on the market. As the adventure progresses, the mechanics get more complicated; you'll need to tap the screen repeatedly, drag the stylus across the screen and employ a combination of these methods. Each technique that gets introduced gives you a practice session first in order to familiarise yourself with proceedings, but some can be overly fiddly and feel forced. On the whole though, the controls are sharp and responsive and you'll be playing along to the music in no time at all.
As it's a music-based game, there is plenty of variety in tracks included here; they're mostly classical with some pop classics thrown in for good measure. You'll be playing along to the likes of Beethoven, Dvorak, Bach and Madness; we even recognised the classic Cornetto song - better known as 'O sole mio - in there somewhere.
As expected with a game of this nature, each world is beautifully drawn and has a theme, ranging from forest to underwater and even space. After three levels strumming to the music, Presto will face off against Staccato in a boss fight which is one of the weaker elements of the game. You have to repeat the actions of the spiders by tapping or strumming the screen. Get it wrong and you lose points from your energy bar but get it right, and you'll inflict damage on theirs. The downside to this is that each boss fight at the end of each world is the same but just a little bit harder, which is disappointing as more could have been accomplished here.
Unfortunately, the game can be completed in about three hours at the most, although this is offset by the unlockable normal and hard difficulty levels plus the chance to try and improve your ranking for each stage with track listing and free mode. It's a fun few hours however, and it will have you returning to try the harder difficulty levels.
Maestro! Jump in Music has its flaws; sometimes the gameplay mechanics can get too fiddly, making some stages more a matter of a luck than skill, boss levels repeat and the overall game can be completed in a matter of hours. However, the innovative style of gameplay combined with the responsive controls make this a title that is well worth tracking down; it's a product from a period when inventive titles were appearing on the DS on an almost weekly basis, and certainly deserves more recognition than it got. If you're not fussed about hunting around video game stores and online auction sites, the DSiWare version is also worth a look.