Music games aren’t in short supply on the App Store. Tap Tap Revenge has staked its claim as the best Guitar Hero knock off, while synthPod and Aero Synth exist to satisfy minuscule music creation needs, but there’s always room for more. Enter the music/puzzle game Music Flux, a hopeful departure from the traditional rhythm-matching mechanics that seem blanket the genre.
Life Could be Simple
Your goal in Music Flux is quite simple. A stream of pixels exists in an assigned area of a level. You’re tasked with directing the stream of pixels across a handful of collectors all over the screen. Small circles, called affectors, with directional arrows on top can be dragged over the stream, which give influence to the stream’s direction. Affectors can be expanded and shrank for more or less power, respectively. If the stream is directed over a collector, that collector begins to fill up and play a portion of a song. Once all the collectors have been filled, every separate part of the song syncs into one, and the full song is finally audible.
The first few levels can be tackled quite easily, but from there Music Flux wastes little time layering the mechanics with complexity. Soon, you’ll have to force the flow through colored clouds to match the color of the desired collector. Not long after, new affectors start to appear. One can centralize the flow and swirl it into a spiral, while another can directly affect the power of the flow. Toward the end you’re tasked with separating the flow into different streams, which almost seems impossible until you find just the right pixel for your affector. When it’s all said and done, twenty different levels spread out over five uniquely themed worlds are there for your impulsive completion.
Over the course of my time with Music Flux, I discovered two basic ways to play it. The first and most time consuming is for impatient people (like me); you can arrange the affectors in ways you think might work, and then proceed to endure and seemingly infinite loop of trial and error sequences. Affectors are, essentially, adjustable variables, and trying to determine the best path for the flow by tweaking and re-tweaking your affectors before finally finding a path that works serves as a rewarding experience. The second path, taken by a friend of mine, involved analyzing the field before hand and planning your route around what makes the most logical sense. That worked quite well too, but either path presents a legitimate challenge as a means to an end.
On the presentation end, Music Flux has its share of hits and misses. The music, thankfully, isn’t obnoxious techno or tired pop songs. Opting for simple, almost classical tunes, Music Flux bathes in its ambience, and then supports itself with low key, nocturnal backdrops. The visuals aren’t going to impress any time soon, but their sufficient in not interfering with the mechanics. The same can’t exactly be said for the touch interface, which is passable at best. Resizing your affectors can be done in a manner similar to resizing pictures (squeeze to shrink, do the opposite to expand), but the response when doing so it’s barely there. Instead, it’s generally advised to use the increase/decrease meter on the right side of the screen. That actually functions quite well, but it turns into a mess when your affector goes on top of that meter. I had a lot of trouble trying to drag my affector away because the game kept thinking I wanted to change the size of the affector. Sometimes I could make the meter disappear and grab my affector, but I never found a way to do this with any sort of consistency. It was disappointing, to say the least.
Then there’s this weird issue; I don’t mind it when games try to ape the style of more popular, brand name franchises, but it seems less opportunistic if the knock off tries to do something to separate itself from its peer (as is the case with Tap Tap Revenge). Music Flux, I soon found, is a direct rip off of Auditorium, a flash-based game that’s been kicking around for a couple of years. Given, Auditorium isn’t on at the App Store and the full version isn’t 99 cents, but Music Flux is a rip off blatant enough to be considered shameless. At the very least, Genesis (a very similar iPhone game released at about the same time as Music Flux) had enough tact to put a spin on the aesthetic.