* Tested on the Galaxy Nexus and iPad

Anyone familiar with rhythm games such as Guitar Hero or Rock Band, will immediately feel at home playing Magic Piano by Smule.

The concept is simple: “Notes” drop down from the top of the screen and the player must tap them when they reach a center bar that is intended to ensure your timing is correct and that you are not playing the song too quickly or too slowly.

Although there is an “Easy” mode – in which the player only has to hit one note at a time – those of us who are seeking a challenge can choose between “Normal” or “Hard” modes…which produces multiple chords, and therefore requires the use of more fingers in order to correctly multi-tap the various notes to complete the song…not to mention, ensure that it even resembles the song that you are attempting to play!

The result is a surprisingly fun and satisfying experience, as you “tickle the ivories” to a large assortment of free and unlockable songs, many of which include an impressive selection of new and classic favorites. You can even play the theme to some of your favorite video games, including Super Mario Bros or Zelda.

The app is free to download for both Android & iOS devices, and does come pre-loaded with a handful of free songs that you can begin playing immediately. Smule also releases new songs every week, including both free and paid.

Harder modes require the playing of “chords”…and the use of more fingers.

In order to purchase songs, you spend in-app currency called “Smoola,” which can be exchanged to unlock songs that you want to add to your library. The app gives you an initial Smoola balance for free, which is enough to buy 1 or 2 songs. However, if you want to obtain more “Smoola,” you can do so either by using real money ($2.99 = 200 Smoola) or by taking advantage of deals that the app offers for partner sites (i.e. “Sign up for Netflix and receive 1281 Smoola” etc). Any purchases via real currency is simply charged to your Google or iTunes accounts…and a new song will range between only 25 and 75 Smoola to unlock. I opted for a couple of piano-based favorites that I like and purchased “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles and “Brick” by Ben Folds Five. But you can choose from a large collection of songs, including Coldplay, Incubus, Justin Bieber, Jason Mraz, Lady Gaga, Bach, Mozart, Frank Sinatra and many others.

Another added feature is the ability to share your clumsy tinkerings to email or your social media channels – which directs people to the Smule website – where they are treated to your compositions and a display of where your song was played via a world map. You can also tune in and listen to others around the world playing songs in real-time.

I reviewed both the Android version on my Galaxy Nexus, as well as the iPad version and unfortunately they do not sync to your Smule account, therefore songs bought on your Google account will not be available on the iPad…and vise versa. Although many will find it easier to play on the iPad, due to the larger screen, I have had no problems with the smaller screen on my mobile device accurately registering my keystrokes.

All in all, if you are a fan of rhythm games, I would definitely recommend Magic Piano. It gives you a (fun) sense of playing the piano – using an attractive and intuitive user-interface – with plenty of challenging songs to keep you entertained. Smule does offer a Magic Guitar game, but I found it cumbersome and that the tapping on the screen is more well-suited for the feeling of playing the piano. However, the guitar game does make good use of your phone’s built-in accelerometer, to give you a “wah-wah” effect as you pick off some sweet guitar licks. 🙂

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