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Wii Music Review

After all the controversy, does Nintendo's music-maker hit a bum note?

Forget Bully, forget Madworld, forget Grand Theft Auto. When it comes to controversy, few have courted it quite like Wii Music. Sure, there's no blood and guts to speak of, but nevertheless, no other game has had so many people up in arms as Nintendo's latest lifestyle title.

Since its unveiling at E3 in July, the game has attracted some pretty vicious condemnation. The more hardcore end of the gaming spectrum have been lining up to take a shot. "There's nothing to it!" they cried. "Where's the game?" they bellowed. "It looks like something for my kid sister!" they insisted.

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Were they right? Well, to be honest, to a degree, yes. Wii Music isn't technically a game. It's very content light. And, yes, it's a game aimed at a younger demographic than, say, Twilight Princess or Metroid Prime 3 were. However, surprisingly, it's something else too. It's a lot of fun.

Stop, Hey, What's That Sound?

The core of the game sees you choosing a song, selecting an instrument and then playing along with the Remote and Nunchuk. For instance, if you pick the guitar, you'll be making a strumming motion with the Remote. For the drums, you'll be pretending the Wii's controllers are drumsticks. The piano sees you tapping out a tune with both controllers on an invisible keyboard.

Unlike Guitar Hero, you don't select which note you play, merely when you play it. You'll be given a beat to follow and while you have the option of bringing up a bar showing you when to play each note, the emphasis is very much on doing your own thing and adding or subtracting notes to make the song your own.

You have the choice of playing along with the house band (a motley crew called The Tutes), going multiplayer and assigning up to four different players an instrument each, or building up a song from scratch yourself. The last option is easily the most enjoyable and where the real meat of the experience is.

There's scope for using up to six instruments per song. You can start by, say, laying down a drum beat and then, one by one, going back and layering further percussion, bass, chords, a melody and then harmony on top to create your own take on a particular tune. Once you're done, you can make a record sleeve, watch your video back and then send it to a Wii-owning friend.

Name That Tune

As mentioned above, one of the main criticisms levelled at the game is that it looked to lack substance. Ironically though, out of all the 'Wii...' games, it probably offers the most depth. You can spend hours tinkering with your track by changing the style, altering the tempo, adding new instruments and so forth. With patience (be warned: it's not easy at first), imagination and a little musical flair you can create something really rather remarkable. ONM's synth-reggae take on The Police's Every Breath You Take (see panel), for instance, has to be heard to be believed.

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Indeed, Wii Music's strengths lie in the freedom it affords you to unleash your creative side and come up with something unique. Unlike Guitar Hero or Rock Band, you'll never play a song the same way twice. The instruments available range from the straightforward (guitar, piano, violin, trumpet, clarinet), to the exotic (marimba, castanets, bongos, sitar), to the downright bizarre (NES horn, human beat box, cheerleader, dog suit). With over 60 different instruments to choose from and six slots available on each song, there are roughly (*gets out calculator*), ooh, a gazillion different ways to play every track.

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