is quite possibly the gayest game I've ever played, and this is coming from someone who owns Big Bird's Hide & Speak and
Dance Aerobics. This game makes Rainbow Islands look positively macho
in comparison. The hero, Takt, is visited one morning by a fairy named Symphony. She begs him to use his skill as a conductor to help save the town's concert hall. Along the way you'll recruit other townspeople in your quest if your performances are up to snuff. The story begins when Symphony shows an irate woman on a park bench. She's been waiting for her boyfriend to show up, but he's late as usual. Quick! Grab your orchestra and get down there; if you're good enough you can get them to dance and make up. About the only thing this scene is missing is for Takt to turn to the camera at the end and give the thumbs-up sign as the announcer over-emotes: "Mentos-the freshmaker!" Later on, you will help a run-down circus, a fashion show, and even attempt to placate some alien invaders.
Your primary job as a conductor is to maintain the proper tempo of your musicians, and bring in new instruments at the appropriate time. On the middle of the screen are a number of "cue points" corresponding to the number of beats in each individual measure of the piece that you are playing. A glowing blue ball travels between these points and you must use your baton at the exact moment when the ball reaches the next cue point in order to keep proper time. On-screen message will tell you if you're conducting too fast or too slow. The tempo will change often in a piece and the cue points will get closer together or farther away from each other depending on the speed. It is also important for you to express the right feeling for the music by waving your baton with the correct amount of force. Each cue point is color-coded blue, green, or red, corresponding to light, medium, and hard strokes. The baton is controlled with just one button so you actually have to press it with the right amount of pressure in order to be successful. When a new instrument is ready to be brought in, an arrow will appear in the cue point, requiring you to press the proper direction on the d-pad while also using your baton at the proper pressure. Basically it all boils down to more complex version of Simon (the old electronic game).
As you can probably imagine in a game that includes fairies, conducting, and a fashion show, the graphics are unbelievably cute. You thought Mario and Kirby were cute? Maybe Hamtaro, or Sonic? Not even close. This game is so saccharine sweet you get a free insulin prescription with every purchase. While you'll have to focus primarily on the cue points and on-screen messages, there is also a lot of action going on in the background. The scene you're in will change depending on how your performance is going. It's fun to play poorly just to watch the reactions to your bad music; at the circus for example, a trapeze artist will miss the net, and the animals start a fistfight. In the UFO scene a poor performance can cause the ship to fire a huge lightning bolt at a police car, blowing it to bits. Another nice touch is that the musicians' movements actually match the music. The drummer only plays when there are actually drums in the song. The background is animated during the entirety of your performance, with the camera panning between you, the musicians and various parts of the local surroundings. For a game with such a simple premise, its graphics are surprisingly rich.
The thing that impressed me the most with this game is the music. I was totally expecting some bootlegged, made-up, pseudo-classical "original compositions," but Mad Maestro! boasts a long list of legendary composers. You'll actually be conducting compositions by Beethoven, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, and many more. Personally, I would've noted that somewhere on the outside of the box as a definite selling point, but you know the "kids today," with their hipping and their hopping, and their bipping and their bopping... There are other sound effects that accompany the changing backgrounds and the cutscenes, but none of the characters have actual voices except for Symphony. The rest of them "speak" in mere mumbles.
This is a hard game to rate because of its unique style of gameplay. If you don't enjoy the first level, chances are you won't enjoy the rest of the game because it's really just more of the same. I should note that there are several bonus games you can unlock, but I'm honestly not proficient enough to have unlocked any yet. You get a scorecard after each successful performance so you can keep retrying specific pieces until you perfect them. For an adult male, just being secure enough in his sexuality to pick this game up may be the biggest challenge. If you like the formula, the replay value is there. I give Mad Maestro! a 7 out of 10
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