The vast majority of my game playing time is in the online, casual arena, because I am able to sneak in a few minutes here and there. The range of quality you can find in free flash games is vast, but many of them would, as Sturgeon's Law dictates, fall under the heading of 'crud'. (Or 'crap' depending on how you term the law.)
Even so, I have found a number of games that manage to key in on some aspect of fun such that my time is not wasted on them. If, as much of my time recently has been spent, I am playing on Kongregate, these would be games that warrant three or four stars.
On occasion, however, is a game that surprises me.
Thus, Musical Catch 2.
The first Musical Catch was an enjoyable little music game. Simple to control, you move your cursor around with the mouse, picking up shapes while trying to avoid red ones. Yellow shapes increased your score multiplier and size. A combination of relaxation and anxiety, the game had a lot of promise.
But it was somewhat limited. The designer had a full version download, but as an online flash game, it did not go very far.
Musical Catch 2 is an example of a sequel where designer understanding what made the first game work and what to correct to make it better.
In Musical Catch, if you hit a red shape, your score multiplier is cut in half, instantly. The same happens in the second, but you also drop a corresponding number of yellow pieces, similar to how Sonic the Hedgehog lost all his rings if he took a hit. You can pick those back up to recover a bit of your power and size. If you happen to have a convenient purple shape around, you can recover just about everything in short order. The game does not feel quite so punishing because of this.
Musical Catch has but a single shape movement pattern. Musical Catch 2 has the possibility of twenty-five different patterns (two different settings of five options apiece) and has one spectacularly 'Mix it up' mode where the movement will change over the course of the song. This can be quite difficult and surprising at times, but is incredibly fun.
I had gotten through most of the basics, and thought that Musical Catch 2 was a nice update to the first. A strong game, and worthy of a four star rating, but certainly not one of the best.
Then I unlocked the final song option: mp3 from URL. This had been hinted at in the first, since the full (paid) version of Musical Catch had that option for your hard drive, but combined with the added gameplay features and the complete playing in browser experience, Musical Catch 2 is a certain winner.
I realised that the designer had done the perfect thing to get me hooked. Much as Harmonix' Rock Band is a strong experience because of the large (and growing) library of work, musical games that allow for expansion have an easy way to extend the playing experience. Plus, moreso than Rock Band, it is expandable at my whim.
I began to wonder what various musical genres would be like. The classical-inspired piano pieces that are included have a certain feel to them, but what about a rock song, or jazz, or something really off beat. I suppose it would be entirely possible to put in a spoken word track, perhaps from a comedy album. Would Musical Catch work to the dulcet tones of Lewis Black?
It seems I have to try. The rock song I have done was very challenging, as the bursts of notes that come with rapid guitar work would often contain a number of harmful red shapes. More exploration and experimentation are certainly needed. There is a bit of a hassle in that I need to upload my songs to a server to then link; it would be much easier if it had the option to play from my own computer, but that may be beyond the capabilities of an in-browser Flash game. But that is but a minor headache considering the amount of fun available.
Five out of five stars.