There’s a lot to like about Smule’s new free iPhone app Magic Guitar. It has that classic Smule look, with neon strings and minimalist background. It aligns neatly into the palm of your hand to simulate a guitar neck, and the song options, though limited, are a nice selection. Where Magic Guitar departs from other Smule music-making apps is that this is not an app at all, but rather a game, in the vein of Rock Band or any of the Tapulous Tap Tap series. The look and feel are different, but the basic gameplay, tapping the right “string” as it crosses a play line in sync with the beat, is familiar. If you love the genre, Smule adds some nice new elements, but if you’re looking for something more, well, magical, like Magic Fiddle, this time Smule misses the mark.
The game is easy to learn. Align the iPhone in your hand, and tap along to the beat. Gestures are required for bends, and shaking the iPhone creates pleasing vibratos. With some practice, game speed can be amped up to make things challenging. Players have a choice of three guitars and a limited catalog of songs, including “Amazing Grace” and “The Star Spangled Banner” (don’t tell Mr. Hendrix you can’t shred that!).
But the best songs are locked and can only be opened with virtual currency called “shred,” which can be earned in small amounts by playing well and completing in-app offers. Primarily it’s available for in-app purchase, of course, and the uber pack runs to $100. It’s exorbitant and off-putting. The smallest amount is $2.99, but that doesn’t go far.
I am impressed with the sound quality, and with the ability to listen in on other players around the world. Smule always performs in the music department, but this offering lacks the creativity I’ve come to expect from the brand.