Can you imagine playing Super Mario Bros. without hearing its trademark da-da-da, da-da, daaaaa theme? Or any Final Fantasy game without its epic soundtracks? Music and games often go hand in hand to help set the mood or tell a story, and most casual games have joined their mainstream brethren in featuring original tunes. Recently, to help stress the importance of music in games, Kongregate teamed up with Ubisoft to launch a contest called Project Eden: Experience the Music. The goal was to get developers to create a game that synchronizes music with unique gameplay. Heeding this call was the indie game developer Submu, with their musical platformer called Muse Quest. In order to advance, your character acts as a sort of "muse" to a series of pushable potato heads that resemble Japanese Kodama spirits.
You control your character with the standard [arrow] / [WASD] keys, and eventually collect music notes to get new songs. Once you have these songs, you can play them to create a special "music radius" that affects the potato heads. Your first song (triggered with [X]) makes the potatoes start walking, while the second song (triggered with [C]) gets them jumping. This "muse" mechanic, along with pressing colored switches to remove blocks, leads to some interesting cooperative single-player gameplay with the potato heads.
With its musical theme and cooperative elements, Muse Quest is an interesting game with enough extra personality and uniqueness to help it stand out from standard platformers. Kevin MacLeod's songs are nice, ranging from soft piano music to tribal-like beats and new-age synth, covering for the lack of sound effects. Graphically, Muse Quest presents itself with stark, stylized grey silhouette backgrounds covering a muted landscape. It's effective, though it would have been nice to see more attention paid to the tile-based art throughout the entire game. As a whole, the game experience feels somewhat unfinished, with only 10 fairly brief levels and a few quirks. You have to manually restart if you do something that makes beating a level impossible, and jumping off potato heads to reach higher areas doesn't feel quite as precise as it should. Ultimately, however, the puzzle-like gameplay and enjoyable music trumps most of Muse Quest's faults. As a demonstration of music mixed with platforming, the developers have indeed found their muse, so heed the call and give it a try.