Universal Music Group Builds Six String on the iPhone

Rhythm games. Ever since the launch of Guitar Hero they have been one of the most popular niches in video games. And as the iPhone has evolved into a more robust gaming device, the genre has found a very snug home for the growing number of music apps such as Tapulous’ Tap Tap Revenge and Riddin Ribbon, the heavily polished Rock Band, and the more creative ones such as Tune Runner. With the saturation, however, new titles must seek new means to differentiate themselves, and so the Universal Music Group (UMG) Recordings is taking its shot with the title Six String.

The core of the game is basically the same as any of the Tapulous or Guitar Hero titles: A sea of notes stream down six guitar strings and must be tapped as the cross a key point – the “tap zone” – at the bottom of the screen (or left of the screen, depending on how you hold the device), which is representative of a guitar’s neck base. However, this is hardly original, so the notes are broken up into four types.

The two more familiar notes are the Music Notes, which are merely single tap notes representing a string pluck in the song, and Note Phrases, which are yellow notes that must be tapped and held for X amount of time. It is worth noting, however, that these represent a more complex series of notes, meaning the in harder difficulties, these are replaced with trickier combinations of musical notes.

Regardless, this is where similarities end, and Six String’s gimmick comes into play. Notice the title – SIX String. Most songs are not played by plucking one string at a time, so this app actually asks the player to literally strum by tapping a note and dragging in the direction of and length of an arrow. Frankly, this did feel a little weak at first, and took some getting used to (as it is very easy to strum too many strings), but after a while, it did start to feel a bit natural and was pretty fun on higher difficulties. Sort of like playing a real guitar. Beyond this, the only other new feature is the requirement to change the chord in which the song is being played. It’s nothing extravagant, and is basically just an extra button to push – in the corner of the screen, towards the head of the guitar neck – when the command appears in harder difficulties.

Like Guitar Hero, missed notes will not be played and if you start to miss too many in a row, you will fail the song. Conversely, if you get a streak, you can shake the device to get a score boost.

As for the songs themselves, the selection you get after the $5 purchase is limited to a paltry six tracks. Luckily, the songs are pretty wide in variety and include some great titles from Bon Jovi, Scorpions, and Peter Frampton. Of course, since this is a game made by Universal Music Group, there are a ton of tracks that can be purchased for about $1 from just about every artist you can think of such as 3 Doors Down, Beck, Tom Petty, and many more. Conveniently, these can be bought directly through the app, and are sortable by artist, song, or difficulty.

Now, as far as complaints go, the biggest one is the fact that you can only play one song in, what is called, the Studio at the start. Since the game is powered through Plus+, you can post your scores to global leaderboards, but in order to do so, it must be done via this mode. Unfortunately… in order to play any other tracks the game gives you in the Studio, you have to hit a percentage of the notes in practice mode first. For easy it’s 90%; medium is 80%; hard is 80%. Essentially, the game forces you to play each song twice if you want to participate with the community in this fashion.

Thankfully, you can still unlock a fairly high number of awards/achievements, and as you finish a song, you are granted the opportunity to challenge your friends to beat your high score. Granted, it is an old social feature, but it still is just as effective.

The other issue with Six String, is while it is a pretty fun, and interesting simulation of guitar playing (not to mention a good selection of songs), the cost is a bit high. That isn’t saying that $5 is a lot. Heck, that’s only slightly more than a coffee at Starbucks. No, it’s saying that for $5 we only get six songs, and in order to get all of them, it will cost a player upwards of $30. Now consider this: Guitar Hero costs $60 on Xbox 360 (assuming you have the guitar – which is a fair comparison since you already have an iPhone if you are playing Six String).

Essentially, users, for the complete experience are paying half the price of Guitar Hero for less than half the experience the mainstream title offers. This includes the tactile feedback of the guitar peripheral, the actually volume of songs coming out of speakers instead of a phone, playing with friends synchronously, and so on.

Nevertheless, for $5, Six Strings isn’t too bad a buy. It could give you more value per dollar, but future renditions will probably remedy some of these complaints. Overall, the best part of the game is that it has a much wider and more mainstream selection of music to choose from than past rhythm titles, and its new gimmick features are actually quite fun, once you get used to them. That said, perhaps it is best to stick with Tap Tap Revenge until new versions of Six String are released.