Pulse: Volume One Steps into Rhythm Games with Original Music

Released May 5th, the iPad rhythm game, Pulse: Volume One has already risen up the top paid app charts earlier this week, and now sits at #21. Developed by Philadelphia-based Cipher Prime Studios, a digital media company that actually does not exclusively focus on games, Pulse attempts to differentiate itself from the rest of the rhythm games currently on the market by not only incorporating a minimalistic, yet artistic, visual style, but completely original music as well.

Rhythm games have often attempted to stand out with their game mechanics (e.g. ReRave) alone, but while Pulse does so, it compounds that with its very artistic nature. This art style refers to more than just the visual, however, as its electronic, often ethnic-sounding music comes with an artistry all its own. Colorful and euphonic, the game sounds and plays wonderfully. Nonetheless, there are likely many that will balk at the $4.99 price tag, despite the app’s merits.

In Pulse, players are greeted with a series of rings that emanate a multihued ring from their collective center in rhythm with the song‘s tempo. As the music track starts, white circles will begin to orbit the rings and one can probably guess what the goal is from here. Yes, the idea is to tap the circles as the pulse passes them. Upon proper timing, the circles will then explode into a display of colorful particles unique to each song.

Like previously made games of the genre, such as Tap Tap Revenge, the song continues to play whether or not the player successfully times a circle tap or not. However, not hitting it will result in a puff of Xs and a cacophonic burst of noise. There is no way to fail, like with Tap Tap Revenge, but it disrupts the melody so much that it is punishment in its own right. Also, it reduces the recorded accuracy level of the player (there is no score, just a percentage of notes hit).

Since players cannot fail nor do they have the objective of earning a true high score, Pulse, by many peoples’ definition can only loosely be considered a “game.” Nevertheless, it is still quite fun and resembles a similar form of entertainment as that of Smule’s Magic Piano (whose free iPhone version was recently #4 on the top free iPhone charts and #15 on the top grossing ones). There’s not really a clear point to playing. It’s just a fun toy.

What makes Pulse the most enjoyable, however, is the music itself. Currently, there are eight levels with each containing a very unique music track an average of two minutes long. Each song is purely instrumental and in many cases very ethnic or time period specific sounding. Some tracks have a more modern Asian feel, while others feel like they could come from the streets of Paris, while still others sound like they are right out of the old American movies. Regardless of their sound, each song is distinct and sounds absolutely fantastic when played correctly.

It is also worth noting, that while the game starts off easy enough, it quickly becomes exceptionally challenging as players move down the list of songs. Since the circles are orbiting the rings, it is much more difficult to be accurate as opposed to when they are streaming down in a straight line. Moreover, latter songs will have faster moving circles, more circles, and those requiring simultaneous taps (like a chord).

If there were any complaint that could be highlighted (and this is minor), it might be that some potential users will find the $4.99 price tag a bit high for a rhythm game that doesn’t let them play songs that they are particularly interested in (e.g. Top 40 songs). Nevertheless, it is worth reiterating that these instrumental pieces sound fantastic, and Cipher Prime Studios has noted that updates with more levels and music will be on the way. Assuming updates do not require further in-app purchases, the value will come in time, even if it is not fully justifiable immediately.

Overall, Pulse: Volume One is a fantastic music game for iPad and one well worth a look. It both looks and sounds great, and while there is no true form of scoring, the app is still both fun and challenging. That said, since it is all instrumental music and does not offer any sort of popular music, it may not appeal to everyone, but its entertainment value falls along the same thread as Smule’s Magic Piano. As such, if you liked that app on iPad, you will likely enjoy Pulse as well.