Music and rhythm video games have allowed virtual performers to play electronic versions of all sorts of instruments. Guitars, microphones, maracas, even Japanese Taiko drums! Now there’s one that lets you play piano! But you don’t have to worry about a Baby Grand taking up room in your house, as Piano Genius is available to download on iOS devices (iPad version reviewed here).
Gameplay is similar to other music titles. You view the sheet music on the top of the screen, and the piano keyboard on the bottom. As notes scroll by on the top part of the screen, dots will move from top to bottom of the keys. Once they reach the bottom and turn green and glow, that’s your cue to tap that key on the touch screen in time with the music. Do this enough times in a row to boost your score and cause the sheet music to burst into flames. You’ll even be able to do two-note chords with two fingers on the touch screen, too. In most songs, you won’t be playing ALL the notes, just a select few, so it’s like you’re playing a duet with someone.
The one problem with gameplay is that sometime it’s hard to judge where the dots are as they scroll down, especially when differentiating between sharp/flat and regular keys (black and white keys). And the transition when you need to scroll down the keyboard for a note can be a bit jarring sometimes.
The other main problem with Piano Genius is song selection. You start out with three classical pieces, some of which I even played when I took piano lessons as a kid. You can download one free Christmas song, but the rest you have to buy with virtual coins. You earn coins by completing objectives and leveling up in the game, but you’d have to play FOREVER to have enough coins to download even one song. Of course you can buy extra coins with real money, which is probably what they want you to do. You’d think there would be enough piano classics in the public domain for them to include more songs you don’t have to pay for, though. Maybe further out, there will be more.
The songs you can buy with coins are mostly contemporary pieces, piano versions of popular songs by singers and groups such as Coldplay and even Justin Bieber! Luckily you can preview songs before buying them. Unfortunately, most of the songs don’t seem to translate as well as piano pieces. And personally, I found the game rather difficult. I took piano lessons starting in third grade all the way until high school, and even though I’m out of practice now, this game still kicked my butt. But if you are REALLY good at piano, you might enjoy this little game anyway.
Because of the high difficulty, I’d say this one is best for older kids who have prior knowledge of playing the piano. I don’t think it really teaches too many piano skills, as it doesn’t encourage proper hand placement on the keys and you can’t play chords over two notes due to the limitations of the touch screen. But maybe it could serve as an enriching reward after piano practice or something.