New music games don’t have to reinvent the wheel as long as they offer good songs, but iOS music games have experimented with different ways players can tap their screens. Games like Guitar Hero and Michael Jackson: The Experience modified their console experience, while games like Taptap and Symphonica put their own twists on tapping games. Now there’s a game that combines the mobile tapping genre with all the weirdness of fringe games you can find in the App Store.
Duck & Roll didn’t have to be about a rock n’ roll duck, but it is. The essence of the game is tapping notes as they land on the screen. The notes in Duck & Roll are stars, and there are stars you have to hold for a few seconds, stars you have to swipe to slice in half, and stars you have to trace in a zigzag pattern. The game is just shapes and rhythm, but the background of every level is picture of a duck rocking out in a band.
The story is a duck runs away from home to be a rock star and works his way up to the big show. Each level is a new song, including artists like Tempero, Saints of Silence and Dan Phillison. The music rocks and the combinations of notes to tap are thrilling for your little fingers. You may be holding a long note while you have to tap incoming stars with your other finger. You may figure out how to maximize your slicing by swiping up for one combo, then down for the next combo. It keeps your fingers active which is what engages you. When you’re breathlessly tapping your screen and shivering as you wait for the next note at the exact right time, that’s a good game.
The tutorial explains all the different notes and gameplay really thoroughly. Then you unlock easy mode and can play it through to unlock normal, and then hard. From easy to normal, the combinations of tapping stars get much more complicated. In hard mode, you don’t even see the outline of the star so you can tell when it’s time to tap. You just have to tap by sense of rhythm alone. That makes the zigzag notes especially challenging when you can’t see the outline.
You can three star a level by getting continuous accuracy streaks, so there’s incentive to keep playing each level until you master it. Right now, I’m in more of a mood to play through and keep advancing, and at launch Duck & Roll is too short. They say they’re going to add new songs later, and DLC will be welcome to add to Duck & Roll’s repertoire. I’ll pay more for new songs. I want to tap more duck stars!
The graphics are beautiful, though stagnant. Each level is a still photo of the cartoon ducks, which is all they need to be. I always said Rock Band and Guitar Hero should play against black screens, because you can’t look at the graphics while you’re focusing on the notes.
Duck & Roll has the potential to be a great music game, but the verdict is out until more songs arrive. For now two bucks is a little steep for six songs, though with three different skill levels that’s really 18 different tap games to play. I want more, which is a good sign for an iOS game. The audience is there, so let’s sign some more acts.