While the object of both vigorous praise and criticism, music games have helped people see music and musical interfaces in new ways. Masaya Matsuura (PaRappa the Rapper) is known as the father of that genre. With a new title, you can try out his latest music gaming concept for free, on iPod touch and iPhone. The game is the product of a collaboration with Dutch developer Triangle Studios (makers of the iPhone port of augmented reality browser Layar). And it’s all for a good cause: the OneBigGame effort is using proceeds from track sales for this title and other gaming revenues to support Save the Children and Starlight Children’s Foundation.

More than any other designer, Matsuura has thought of plenty of novel ideas for how to vary the music game model. At its simplest, of course, music games owe some of their legacy to titles like the toy Simon: copy a sequence of events in time. With WINtA, the gameplay has been varied again. Here, the digital vocals become the object of the player’s input. There are also clever visuals unique to each music track, making the game as much music visualization and interactive toy as game.

The creators say the new approach will present a “new way of involving players in music and lyrics,” partly because the lyrics and vocals become an active part of the title. The free track comes from Matsuura himself; other titles are in-app purchases. (Free tracks will be released weekly, too, according to the publishers.)

Also, I don’t doubt that in these simple, geometric graphics, there might be for someone out there the seed for a musical interface that isn’t a toy.

Part of what fascinates me about Matsuura’s work – aside from the fact that he inspired game house Harmonix – is that it is so very different from conventional musical interface work. It does need to function more simply, as a toy, and with clear states of success and failure (arguably not the case in traditional music performance). This should be, at the very least, worth a quick play-through. And you get a taste of Matsuura’s whimsical musical style, as well.

WINtA on the iTunes App Store