Music Catch is one of those games that doesn’t really have a genre. Part music game, part zen item-catching experience, there isn’t much out there that’s quite like it. What’s more, the game can be as relaxing or challenging as you want it to be.
Originally a free Flash game that became a huge phenomenon, developer Reflexive Entertainment re-released Music Catch with a few additions: 12 songs instead of one, and the ability to play new levels using your own personal music collection.
The idea behind Music Catch is simple: As the music plays, shapes of different sizes, types and neon colors begin sprouting from a flat plane that rotates around the black background. You move your cursor (your catcher) across the playfield and, unlike a traditional shooting game, you want to get hit – sometimes.
The goal is to catch the good colors with your catcher. Green shapes are basic points; yellows shapes add to a score multiplier, and also make your catcher bigger to help you collect more shapes. But watch out for red shapes, as they cut your multiplier in half and shrink you back down. The best color, purple, makes your cursor act like a vacuum and pulls all the good shapes towards you, leaving the reds to float around.
Gameplay depends on the music. The game shoots the shapes at you based on how loud or soft the music is, and how high or low the sounds of the song are. Higher pitches make smaller shapes while lower pitches make larger shapes. If the song is loud, the pieces fly far away from the plane, but when it’s quiet, the catcher has to get quite close to the plane to catch anything. The wider the range of pitches (high notes down to low notes), the wider the dispersement of shapes from the plane.
After you frantically move your catcher through the level, you are given bonuses based on your highest multiplier, the size of your catcher at the end of the game, and awarded a medal based on the percentage of notes you caught. Your final score is saved to a leaderboard.
Music Catch begins with one song available, and eleven more can be unlocked by achieving a silver medal or better on each subsequent song (which is not terribly hard to do). The library is limited, but includes a number of remixes and medleys from other Reflexive titles like Ricochet, Airport Mania, Wik and Build in Time. Some of the remixes are a little bland, but it’s nice to hear the familiar favorites. Unfortunately, some of the songs just fade away without warning and it’s sometimes hard to know when the song is actually going to end.
Where Music Catch really shines – and has its real replay value – is in its ability to create levels based on your own music library. Any MP3 format music file stored on your computer can be imported and used as the game’s soundtrack. It’s really easy: a window pops up and you double-click on the file like you were opening it in a media player. Potentially, the game has infinite replay value, and can be played for almost any length of time, whether you want to play a song or two to refresh your mind, or play through your favorite band’s entire discography.
Different genres of music make different level difficulties and patterns, and it’s a lot of fun to experiment with all the tunes in your collection. A Beethoven symphony proved to be a very challenging level, for example. Because the sound is so lush and full, tons of shapes came barrelling across the entire plane. On the other hand, the Rolling Stones – even though the music was much more driving – cause the shapes to simply gush in the middle of the plane like a geyser because the music used a much narrower range of pitches and instruments.
The more relaxing the music, the more relaxed the experience. Something slow-tempoed and smooth (say, Enya) proved to be almost hypnotic, with the neon visuals slowly floating in space.
A couple of odd niggles aside (for example, if you move the catcher too fast, it doesn’t detect any of the shapes, and you don’t pick them up), Music Catch is a solid, if simple, experience. It’s very easy to put on some mellow music and “catch” your stress away. It’s not for everyone, but definitely worth the download. At $9.95, it’s not a big risk to take, and if you’ve got a big music collection, you should strongly considering catching this one.