This week’s set of Kickstarter Picks has a definite musical theme running through it, including music to enjoy, learn, and use to control budding civilizations.  We all know dwarves love singing, so that just leaves one odd-man-out puzzle-platformer—which is so mysterious and hush-hush about its theme, we’ll just assume it’s entirely about music as well.  Five for five!  Time to celebrate with some great gaming projects.  

Rather than profiling a single Kickstarter project, future Kickstarter Picks articles will be rounding up a bunch of great games that we feel are worthy of your backer dollars. Like the new format? Have a project you think we should be aware of? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!

 

Video Games Live: Level 3 – What’s the next best thing to playing an amazing video game?  Listening to amazing video game music.  Video Games Live has already brought us two full concerts’ worth of orchestral game songscapes, including tracks from Tetris, God of War, Kingdom Hearts, World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, and dozens of other varied genres.  This potential third entry in the now eight year-old series will be a non-live, recorded album only, meaning you can’t snag a concert date through Kickstarter (or anywhere).  What you will get is a 60+ piece orchestra, 60+ person choir, and full rock band performing brand new arrangements of songs from games like Skryim, Chrono Trigger, Destiny, Mass Effect, Diablo, and more.  Though the track list is not finalized, past Video Games Live events and albums have been stuffed with AAA musical scores that are as rewarding as they are replayable, and Level 3 should be no different.

 

Piano Wizard – While many gamers have been “playing” instruments since Guitar Hero‘s release back in 2005, rhythm gaming hasn’t turned most of us into the next Mozart.  Music education apps are more productive in this department, but usually fall flat in enjoyment and substance.  Piano Wizard could single-handedly change that, pairing engaging mechanics with increasingly challenging gameplay.  Based on the keyboard software system that has been successfully used in schools, workshops, and homes worldwide, Piano Wizard will bring the same level of learning to your iDevice for a fraction of the cost and size.  With a guarantee that anyone can learn to play the piano and read music through their system—children to adult—in mere minutes (to start), Piano Wizard almost seems too good to be true.  But only almost; I played with the full-sized version a couple years ago and was amazed at its ease of use and how quickly it helped me pick up on the basic mechanics.  If the iOS version maintains this level of accessibility and fun, it will be a must-have for anyone with an ear—but not yet fingers—for music.

 

N.Ø.N.E.N.Ø.N.E. is a god game in the purest sense of the word; you take on the role of a higher consciousness that exists outside of space and time, having sprung to existence suddenly, from oblivion.  You do not know how you came to be or why, only that you have the ability to create new universes and encourage them forward by influencing beings known as SUM.  Your influence is spread through music, by plucking the strings of harmony, reason, or chaos on an “ethereal instrument” that communicates with the SUM.  This encourages the unexplained beings towards peace, exploration, or conquest, as they live out their short and fleeting lives.  While N.Ø.N.E. is a strategic builder, requiring expansion across the universe itself, its thematic focus is highly philosophical, placing larger questions of meaning on both the SUM and your omniscient character.  As a “Free the Games” project, a successful Kickstarter means it will be available only on OUYA for its first six months of release, but non-OUYA owners: this could be one worth waiting for.

 

Tread LightlyTread Lightly wins the award for shortest Kickstarter presentation to catch our attention, but as a single-sitting, free title with an emphasis on its emotional impact, much of it should be left to the imagination.  What we can tell from the short gameplay video available in the first update: it’s a puzzle-platformer in which you’ll play as a woman who appears to be blind.  The puzzle mechanics revolve around light; a lamp that you carry, darkened rooms, and doorways that—once opened—become a beacon in the darkness.  A running narrative accompanies each level, dealing with issues of doubt and fear of unanswerable questions, although what we’ll be exploring or learning exactly is still a tantalizing mystery: “Some obstacles are more easily solved than others.  But what if the game that you were playing…was the trap?  Tread Lightly.”

  

Dwarven Delve – Dubbed an “action puzzle crawl” by developer TinkerHouse games, Dwarven Delve combines the enemy-slaying, loot-nabbing action of dungeon crawlers with the brain-churning manipulation of puzzle games.  Players will control a band of dwarven cave divers, adept in the art of combat and magic but equally experienced at using dungeons as a means to their treasure-hunting ends.  Each dungeon is cut up into separate hexagonal sections with numerous walls, doorways, and paths that don’t necessarily connect naturally.  In order to activate sections of the dungeon your dwarves wish to explore, you’ll need to move and rotate the hexagon pieces so that they become accessible.  You can also use this Pipe Dreams-esque control to lure enemies into traps, or even into fighting each other, if you’d rather concentrate on ransacking the place.  The burly protagonists of Dwarven Delve will automatically fight any monsters you don’t lure away that they happen upon, so your non-rotating time will be spent managing the party’s abilities and health in fast-paced, active encounters. With an already highly polished series of gameplay videos available, Dwarven Delve looks ready to play—we’re hoping for a demo or very successful Kickstarter, because we’re ready to play, too.