Create amazing music easily with the most fun and powerful music creation tool on XBOX 360 - over 500 loops, automation controls, full screen visualizer and xbox live support to send your songs to your friends.
One of the things Xbox Live Indie Games has brought about with its open development is applications and assorted non-gaming software. I generally don't care for this as I hate seeing actual video games bumped down into the void by releases which will let me test my television's color depth or ensure that my speakers are set up properly not to mention all of the vibrating software. While I can acknowledge the benefit some non-gaming stuff can have such as being able to draw pictures with friends on-line or learning a new language, by and large these are not titles I wish to spend my time with playing. So, even though ezmuze+ Hamst3r edition, a loop-based sequencer developed by James Johnston (Mad Ninja Skillz) and with loops provided by Jamez Gillman (The Hamster Alliance), has populated the best rated Xbox Indies list since its debut over a year ago, I'm only just now getting to it.
I now see that ezmuze+ Hamst3r edition is totally worth its high dashboard ranking although that wasn't clear initially. Booting up the "game" drops the player straight to ezmuze's pattern mode with nothing in the way of warning or instructions. Fumbling around with the controller, I found that the Back button brought up a menu where I could see how the controller was mapped, check the tutorials, save and load songs, switch to 4:3 screen aspect ratio, and more. The three available spoken tutorials do an excellent job of explaining how a user can go about creating music with ezmuze via its library of 500 distinct audio loops. These tutorials really should be better highlighted at the game's start as viewing the empty grid with little understanding of what to do could turn people away. I also think it would help to have a demo song or two available in-game to show what is possible. Thankfully, the game controls like a dream, and it isn't long before I was able to cut and paste loops and use the variety of volume controls to effortlessly create my own songs.
Creating songs can be as easy or complex as the player wishes it to be. Ezmuze+ divides its gigantic loop collection into packs with each loop broken up into four slices. Since the pattern grid uses common time with a 4/4 meter, each block on the grid and slice of a loop represents one beat in that meter. With all of the loops cut to fit the standard time signature, they all can be mixed and matched regardless of packaging. I can take a slice of a bass line and follow it up with a slice from another without missing a beat. The pattern grid allows for two separate drum, lead, bassline, and atmosphere tracks to be played along with a row for vocals and another for sound effects. Beyond just mixing and matching the loops, the ability to enter automation mode and play around with with the slice's volume means that I can blend existing loops to create new rhythms and sounds. Being able to switch modes with the bumpers keeps the user always focused on tweaking and editing the track without having to navigate complex menus, and it's great to be able to listen to a work in progress and make alterations as quickly as ezmuze+ allows. The interface is quite wonderful, and Ezmuze+ also offers some extra tracks unlockable through play or codes available at the Ezmuze+ website. While I'm not a fan of unlocking things such as this, particularly in such creativity focused software, the initial loop library is so large that I hardly feel limited by the few bits initially left out from the game.
If Ezmue+ has a flaw, then it's the same drawback which all creativity minded software console releases have -- the inability to export one's creations beyond the limits of the hardware. While Ezmuze+ does allow friend sharing of user tracks, the only way to get one's songs outside the Xbox is to plug the system's audio cable into an available recorder, PC, or whatnot and make a copy of the track while it plays. It's unfortunate Microsoft does not allow for remote Internet uploading, but I can't fault the developer for Microsoft's shortsighted policies. Although the higher price may turn off some, the variety of loops from rock and pop to hip-hop and electronic along with constant updates by developer Mad Ninja Skillz definitely make ezmuze+ a good investment. Ezmuze+ is a terrific bit of software, and anyone who enjoyed making music on Mario Paint and doesn't mind the console limitations would do well in checking it out.