Review: mScribble

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Way back when, I actually played bass in a jazz and rock band, both of which managed to get paid money for playing, and neither or which survived long after high school graduation. I took a minor in electronic music and was able to work with a pioneer in the field at the time when MIDI was still a burgeoning standard. As part of that I had to learn to be a hack pianist. My younger son, on the other hand, is quite accomplished, and thrilled his teacher one day by playing a composition for her on my iPad. The iPad is great as a virtual keyboard, and there are tons of great apps to help you with music.

The iPod Touch and iPhone … well, they are fun for a bit of small-scale fiddling, but lack the screen real estate for full-on keyboard work. There are plenty of other ways to enjoy the love of creating music on the system, though, as well as plenty of music-based games.

mScribble is not really either of those, though. When you start, you choose a backing style and one of four sounds for your lead instrument. Then you start making music! Pitch varies from bottom to top of the screen over a couple of octaves, and the volume increases or decreases as you move left to right. You make music by touching the screen – staccato notes come from taps, and legato runs come from scribbling on the screen. The available notes all seem to be derived off the chords used in the background, so you are never venturing into ‘Free Jazz’ land.

mScribble auto-harmonizes based on the underlying chord changes, so if you keep your finger stationary the tone will change every two beats. If you shake your iPhone the note will have vibrato applied, and it seemed to be proportional to the amount of shaking.

All of that sounds great … but here is the problem. My two kids (both play instruments) were in the kitchen after dinner and I pulled out my iPod Touch and started playing. They quickly came over and watched, then immediately wanted a turn. One child than the other took turns, trying different sounds and backbeats. But when the second son was done, he asked if the other one wanted it back – and my other son said “no, I’m good.” And they have never wanted to touch it again. And this entire exchange took less than 5 minutes.

Also, my kids pointed out the resemblance to Wii Music … but with much less variety. I had already figured out the lack of variety – all four solo voices sound very similar, and there is just not enough variety in the backing tracks to inspire you to keep creating. Nor are there any other settings – you can’t vary tempo, for example. If there was a nice chiff flute sound over a new age floating background, and an uptempo fusion jam with a square wave lead …. those are the sorts of things that would make this useful and fun.

I have had people say to me “$1 is practically free.” Two things – $1 is $1, not free; and my time is worth something as well. mScribble is an interesting idea that goes nowhere and doesn’t do enough to keep you interested for more than about 15 minutes. And to me, that just isn’t good enough to justify even $1.

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Pros:
+ Immediately fun
+ Everyone wants to try …

Cons:
– … but seldom do they want a second try
– Four lead tones sound too much alike
– Just not much to do

Game Info:
Platform: iPhone/iPod Touch
Publisher: Appular
Developer: Panpipes Ho!
Release Date: 10/18/2010
Genre: Music Creation
Age Rating: 4+
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!