Ever since the release of PaRappa the Rapper, rhythm-based games have become a novelty genre with a growing fanbase. Amongst games like Space Channel 5, Bust a Groove, Samba de Amigo, Gitaroo Man, and the infamous Dance Dance Revolution, Mad Maestro! sets itself apart by being a refined member of the rhythm family with its library of famous classical pieces and unique “Simon Says” gameplay.
You take on the role of a young conductor named Takt (what were his parents thinking when they gave him that name?) who’s trying to save the beloved town concert hall from being demolished. Noticing your dilemma, the concert hall’s fairy lends you her power and tells you to take the Bravo Youth Orchestra on a hunt for more band members. Your recruited musicians range from a circus lion and a top clothing designer to a triplet of aliens. Hopefully this will be enough for the final concert to save the day. It’s a corny story, but it’s quirky, and it gives the game an undeniable amount of character.
Mad Maestro!‘s gameplay is a bit different from other rhythm games, because you don’t tap out a pattern along a music track. This is done through following a glowing dot around three or four points, depending on the song. these act as the actual beats in the song. The dots expand and contract accordingly to change up the tempo.
This seems like a simple thing to do, but you are thrown a curveball: each beat has a specific volume (pressure) that must be applied with each button press. Other times you might have to direct what side of the orchestra plays and when you might hold a particular note.
You must apply all of these skills to play a perfect/near-perfect song to make the concert hall’s fairy happy. The quality of your song affects the scenery immensely; i.e., playing horribly will cause utter mayhem, and doing well will make everything fan-friggin-tastic. The scenery and the character models are done moderately well. Everything is clean, colorful, and has a great cartoon look. The only problem is that it becomes distracting at times because of the constant movement behind the directions, but that’s only every once in a while.
Mad Maestro! has a vast musical library of over 30 notable symphonic compositions. The quality of each song is top-notch. One noticeable thing about the music is that, when you mess up, the music of the game actually goes along with the error made so that it doesn’t seem like an extra sound bit tossed in. The voiceovers are tolerable, but not the best. They don’t come up often enough to notice.
I’ve found Mad Maestro! to be a very solid title. It contains a few minor flaws, but they can easily be overlooked. I suggest this game to anyone looking for a challenge, who enjoys music, or who loves quirky stores. Now go out and save the concert hall! And get some culture! (Just playin’.)