As a long-time rhythm game junkie, Ovelin’s new WildChords app strikes very close to home for me. Part Guitar Hero and part instructional aid, WildChords aims to take players though the basics of playing guitar without all the theory that often scares beginners away.
The story — to the extent that it matters — puts you in the shoes of an afro’d guitar player who needs to tame a city full of ornery animals with the power of music. Players progress through the game by doing two things: learning to play chords, and learning to play note patterns on the fretboard.
Gameplay is conceptually similar to Guitar Hero, with players strumming chords and hitting notes as they scroll horizontally across the screen. WildChords starts off deceptively easy (you begin by just strumming your guitar), but it isn’t long before the difficulty starts to ramp up at a steady pace. After a few levels, players will be stringing chords together while accompanied by some vaguely familiar sounding background music.
Playing WildChords is meant to be a learning experience, and one of it’s biggest draws is its ability to gauge how well you’re playing a chord or note. It’s easy to be skeptical, but the app’s sound recognition is surprisingly accurate. Early stages have players strumming E minor, and while the game wouldn’t protest when I played an E major, it was savvy enough to reject the C chord I’d occasionally try and sneak past it. If you’re already an iPad-toting guitarist, you’ll also be glad to know that the tuner works very well — I couldn’t figure out why I would completely bomb a note-playing level until I discovered how out of tune my guitar was.
As impressive as WildChords can be, it’s not without a few sore spots. Every once in a while, the game will suddenly lock up after completing a level, which can be a bit jarring after a hard-earned victory. It’s fairly rare, and I haven’t been able to consistently reproduce it, but be on the look-out regardless.
The thing to remember about WildChords is that it’s not meant to be a comprehensive guitar teacher — people looking for music theory lessons should look elsewhere. By sidestepping the instrument’s more classical trappings, WildChords gets new players up and running with the basics and (more importantly) makes practicing fun.
After beating a few levels for example, players will have a better feel for moving around the fretboard and jumping between chords, both things that tend to elude guitar novices like myself. While the kid-friendly graphics will probably make WildChords a must-have for the tiny musician in your life, the app’s great tuner alone should net it a place in a guitarist’s toolkit.
WildChords is available now in the iOS App Store for free.