Come Along And Sing Our Song
I’ve spent a good few hours over the last week waving my arms around to the beat of a bewildering array of different pieces of music, I imagine most of the time I looked like an over eager Orangutan trying to direct traffic, but I tell you what, Fantasia: Music Evolved has reminded me that games can be a whole lot of fun.
I love dancing, and whilst it normally takes a considerable amount of alcohol for me to truly get into my groove, I’d like to think that I don’t do a bad job once I get going. It’s probably this reliance on a couple of drinks that has generally precluded me from enjoying any dance or rhythm games that couldn’t be played via some plastic instrument, but Fantasia has changed all that.
I’ve Got The Music In Me
Developed by Harmonix, the studio that brought us Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Dance Central to name but a few, Fantasia aims to fuse music, motion and magic whilst wrapping it all up nicely under the banner of Fantasia – one of Disney’s most enduring and memorable films.
Following in the footsteps of Walt’s favourite son, you start the game by taking on the mantle of the new apprentice to the sorcerer – Yen Sid. Moves and techniques are introduced over the first few immediately recognizable songs and then after that you’re free to explore Fantasia and its catalogue of over 30 included tracks.
Gameplay is very much what you would expect. Using the Kinect sensor to track your hand movements, you basically have to conduct the song. You accomplish this by following the on-screen prompts that tell you what sort of movement to make with your hands, also the direction in which to do it. From deft flicks to air punches, flicks and holds to punch and move, it’s hard to explain with mere words, but in action it’s easily understandable and after a couple of songs it came to me as naturally as dancing like my dad.
The prompts all take centre stage but the magic happens at the bottom of the screen. An ethereal silhouette tracks and shows every move you make in real time. Whilst you do see your whole body, the game itself is only interested in your hands and as such they glow with supernatural light as you wave them around. It’s a truly magical experience when you first see this all happening in real time, much akin to my first experience with sparklers on bonfire night, making crazy shapes and patterns on screen as you consistently vogue around your living room.
The campaign sees you exploring six different realms: From the Hollow, with its magical creatures, to the Solar System, with retro space stations and monkeys in space. The environments are all pure Disney and exploring them in between songs is a complete joy. They all feature interactive elements and have lots of secrets to find, it’s almost a game in itself to be honest and it ties everything together really well. There is a story running throughout the campaign that sees you battling the Noise and you will also come across a couple of characters that help explain everything that’s happening. Whilst I found them a little bit annoying, I’m pretty sure children will love them.
I’ve Heard There Was A Secret Chord
No matter how polished the presentation of Fantasia is, the game would be for nought if it did not have the music to back it up. A rather eclectic collection of pieces has covered just about all bases, from Nicki Minaj and Super Bass, the ever present Message in a Bottle by the Police, to classical pieces from Mozart and Vivaldi. It’s not the sort of mix you would find on a Spotify playlist, but every song or orchestral piece works so well with the game-play mechanics.
Each and every song available also has a couple of remixes. You can switch to these on the fly at certain moments in your performance. Orchestral version of Blue Monday by New Order? Amazing. An alternative rock version of Vivaldi’s 1st Movement of Winter? Surprisingly good. These remixes take the 30 or so songs available and make it feel like much, much more. The song choices on offer are a solid start and are already supported by the obligatory DLC. If you feel the need to expand your library, these add-ons are also rather reasonably priced. Further remix packs, whilst not offering new songs, add further variations to some of the songs already available too.
Leaderboards, multiplayer and the ability to record your performance add up to a pretty good offering from Harmonix latest game. Fantasia: Music Evolved is a great all-round package that I’ll be playing and enjoying for a good time to come, however it’s not completely flawless and a couple of niggles hold it back from being an out and out master-class.
It almost feels that at times it wants to shy away from being too much of a Disney title. Whilst the visuals are clearly Disney through and through, I can’t help but feel that big fans of some of the musical numbers that litter their films are going to feel a little short changed. Not one song from any of these films feature at all. Kids would go mad for Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid or Hakuna Matata from the Lion King, and the lack of any orchestral score from Star Wars or Indiana Jones films, really does feel like a huge missed opportunity. Hopefully this sort of music will crop up down the line as DLC.
The recordable performances are a great idea, but whilst they catch what strokes and notes you have hit, one of the best features of the game is missing from these recordings. The Silhouette that is shown whilst performing these songs is strangely absent from the actual recordings. I’m not sure if this is down to technical limitations of the hardware, but it’s a real disappointment that it’s not recorded, I love to be able to watch back my friend’s attempts at hitting all the prompts with magical jazz hands.
Fantasia: Music Evolved is a must buy for anyone who has either an Xbox 360 or an Xbox One with a Kinect Sensor. If you have a decent audio set-up, then all the better. Out of everything I’ve played in the last year, this made me feel that my investment in a 5.1 surround sound system has been worth every penny. It’s a shame that both Fantasia and D4 which I reviewed earlier have been launched at a time when Kinect is no longer standard with Xbox One. Both show what the hardware is truly capable of and offer an experience that you can’t get anywhere else.
Fantasia at its heart is a game that will offer anyone who plays it great music, fun movement controls and a whole load of magic.
Developed by Harmonix
Published by Disney Interactive