In the blurring areas between gaming and creation, toys and tools, there’s certainly a lot of action, spurred on by platforms for sharing software.

Pulse is a new title for the iPad, an ambient rhythmic gaming experience with a unique interface centering around a series of concentric circles. The graphic design looks gorgeous in its abstraction, as much music visualization and animation as game UI. The developer, Cipher Prime, has done this kind of terrific work before – their work includes the ambient streams of colored particles in Auditorium, the Flash-based browser game, followed by the Mac + PC game Fractal. Items of note here:

  • The game combines melodic and rhythmic gameplay elements.
  • Pulse is as much interactive album as game, accompanied by a release of songs (including the single below).
  • Gameplay can be collaborative, not just single player.
  • The title is built in the awesome Unity engine, which means, by the way, Android development isn’t ruled out. Ahem. Let’s hope those OEMs get their tablets straightened out – I repeat my mntra, choice is good.
  • The developers credit their community of geeks and musicians in Philadelphia, PA.
  • In addition to the existing tracks, the developers are looking for indie musicians in Philly looking to get in on the action. Game developers: the new record labels.

Pulse: Volume One

The title is already earning praise and recognition, including topping the charts and getting featured as iPad game of the week.

Interestingly, as the iPad morphs into game platform, that hasn’t stopped people from reconsidering game platforms as venues for music creation tools. So, by way of contrast and comparison – and in case your Xbox is feeling lonely with all the iPad news – it seems only right to counterpoint Pulse with a new Xbox 360 title also released last week.

Music Box is a Tenori-On-inspired music sequencer for Xbox Live Arcade. It’s fairly simple in conception, but makes clever use of the spare controls on an Xbox game controller, and at only a buck, it’s almost certainly a must-buy for music lovers with an Xbox.

Grab the 99-cent title from the Xbox Live Marketplace.

Developer Vadim of Facetious Creations built Music Box with Microsoft’s XNA toolset, which opens up the possibility of Windows Phone, too. He says the response so far has been terrific. I find it fun to play with – and an interesting diversion for a game console.

For all our complaints about iOS and even Android, game consoles remain the most closed platforms out there. (Indeed, some of the anxiety over iOS I believe stems from concerns the game consoles locked-down model will spread to other computing hardware.) That said, Microsoft arguably does more than any other console vendor to promote indie game titles; amidst some noise, there are some real gems on the Xbox Live Arcade.

So, there you have it – two very different models for two different platforms. Let us know what you think.

Addendum: Many, many games have taken on the idea of games as albums, or at least with strong musical dimensions. There’s a nice list of inspiration listed in the sidebar of the blog for Cipher Prime, just to name a few that offer indie and ambient goodness:
Blueberry Garden
Knytt Stories
Samarost 2

  • YYF
  • It looks like space and galaxy.. All the stars are roaming..

  • Jonah

    What is the leftmost d-pad control on Music Box? Filter, decay or?  It sounds like right is reverb?

    Btw peter shouldn't you point out some pd externals to use a 360 controller in windows of osx? 🙂 I'd like to screw around with my controller now.

    Sword & Sworcery takes the game as  album concept in the opposite direction.

  • I am all for blowing up the closed confines of these platforms. It has always baffled me why developers would be ok with needing their games or other software approved by game system companies. Nor why more unauthorized games aren't made available for people to play, so people know they have an alternative.

    Same goes for phones. I would rather root my phone and start porting Linuxy apps than use the App Store any day.

    And why doesn't anybody recognize that Jazzmutant were there with multitouch first? Did the same coders license it to both them AND the phone makers? Or were Jazz not up for the battle of defending their IP? Heck, even Apple were trying to sue over multitouch use by latecomers. (yes, I am a Lemur fan pained by watching others catch up)

  • Peter Kirn

    @CJ: Apple wasn't in the multitouch game terribly early, but they acquired FingerWorks, a company that did have prior art on multitouch (some predating JazzMutant's work). Beyond that, it's apples to oranges (ahem) — various different sensing methods and techniques, and research going back well into the 90s … some of it earlier.

    But you're right; most people think this started with the iPhone. Now, that's not the case with anyone with a sense of the history of the field, and it's not even the case among digital musicians who saw it come to market on the Lemur first.

    But the Lemur is why the music community saw potential for certain kinds of applications and interaction modes before anyone else on the iPad – hence the reference to stretta's demo vid on today's post.

  • "they acquired FingerWorks, a company that did have prior art on multitouch (some predating JazzMutant’s work)."

    I guessed it might be something like this. I have never read up on the patents involved. Thanks for the clarification!