Music Bounce, the latest release from Rowland Rose (Scorching Earth) at Let's Make a Game, is a bit like Breakout, but with an unlikely musical twist. Each level presents you with a different layout of colored bricks. Your job is to wipe them all out by striking them with ammunition from an array of gates on the left side of the screen.
The gameplay is set to an 8-beat musical loop. Click on a gate once to activate it, and once more to deactivate. Once you turn on a gate, every 8 beats it will release a destructive ball, which will travel from left to right, ricocheting off bricks as it encounters them. Destroyed bricks regenerate over the course of that same 8 beats, and you can only pass a level by keeping them all inactive simultaneously, even if it's only for a moment. Therefore, if you set the correct gates to fire at the correct times, the bouncing trajectories should hit every target, all within the same short period of time. Each level imposes a limit on the number of gates you can activate, indicated in the sidebar on the far left.
There are a hefty 50 levels to tackle, but the reward for completing a level in Music Bounce goes beyond the mere satisfaction of victory. Each rectangle you strike releases an instrumental tone or drum sample, and thus their rhythmic destruction can produce a back beat, a bass line, or a melody, depending on how the level is designed. Each level is both a puzzle and a musical arrangement. Like all the games at Let's Make a Game, Music Bounce comes with a level editor, so you can compose your own brainteasing soundscapes.
Analysis: Music Bounce is not a pretty game. The colors are probably paler than they need to be, and the graphical detail is the bare minimum required to get the point across. It might actually have looked better if Rose had gone for a completely retro style like classic Breakout, solid rectangles of color and all. The audio sounds great, of course, although if your computer runs Flash with any lag at all, your experience will be marred by scratchy sound effects and synchronization problems. It's not much fun playing a rhythm game that can't keep a beat, and I can't help but wonder if the code could be better optimized for slower processors.
But if everything is running properly, Music Bounce can be magical. It's great fun discovering the hidden melodies in each new configuration of blocks, and you have some freedom to syncopate the different sections of a song to your own liking. The real challenge sometimes, rather than just completing the level, is to get the track sounding just right. It would be nice if a puzzle could last longer than 8 beats, to allow for more complicated compositions, but there's still a fair amount of variety. If you got hung up on the first level of Scorching Earth, you'll be happy to find a much smoother learning curve on this game, but watch out for the occasional difficulty spike after the first 10 levels.