New Music and Rythym Games Sound a Happier Tune for Industry

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Developers demonstrate the Dance Central 2 game at the E3 on June 6, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
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If videogame tradeshow E3 is any indication, music games are alive and well, despite Guitar Hero’s recent hiatus. Several rhythm gaming titles, including Dance Central 2, Rocksmith and Sound Shapes, are emerging as early favorites.

Dance Central 2, a sequel to the Microsoft Kinect-powered, controller-free dancing simulator for Xbox 360, adds voice control, a campaign mode and redesigned Break it Down features to the popular million-plus seller. In addition to options to import songs from the original game, bringing the available track count to 100 hip-hop, pop and Top 40 tunes, simultaneous multiplayer dancing will also be supported. From freestyle popping and locking to stomping, gyrating or waving your arms in the air in sync with friends, two dancers can fluidly shimmy side by side and execute polished choreographed routines.

A more realistic spin on the typical axe-wielding formula, Rocksmith for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 hopes to teach gamers how to play an actual guitar. The game, available this fall for $79.99, lets you plug a real instrument with a quarter-inch input jack into your console via USB converter, then authentically strum along to classic and contemporary rock hits. Featured artists include Nirvana, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Radiohead, with songs from the Pixies (“Where is My Mind?”), The White Stripes (“Icky Thump”) and Silversun Pickups (“Panic Switch”) also being offered. Lead, rhythm and combo compositions are all being made playable, in hopes that fans will grow their real-world guitar skills and musical horizons, though results may vary given actual talent and coordination.

PlayStation Vita portable arcade outing Sound Shapes, an indie game from the creator of cult hit sonic blaster Everyday Shooter, may prove a surprise underdog with handheld enthusiasts as well. Billed as a “musical platformer,” the launch title, which uses touchscreen and joystick controls, challenges players to guide a sticky, sucker-covered ball through retro-styled screens plastered with enemies and puzzling challenges. By collecting musical notes, tapping on the screen and creating your own levels, you can generate notes that let you modify the game’s existing techno soundtrack or produce custom electronic, trance and ambient songs. Players can choose instruments and notes, add objects and enemies, and affect both the beat and tones generated as they play.

Coming close on the heels of soon-to-be-released games such as interactive laser light show Child of Eden and news of Rock Band’s continued popularity, signs points to a brighter future for the music gaming genre than critics have alleged.

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