Pulse: Volume One review

By Ozzie Mejia, May 31, 2011 6:00pm PDT

When a new gaming platform is getting off the ground, it's often a struggle to find a great game that's not only fun to play, but also takes advantage of that platform's capabilities. The iPad was released shortly over a year ago and now boasts a large library of games. However, there hasn't been anything I’ve seen on the iPad that I couldn't already play on a PC or console. I had yet to find a truly unique game that was not only fun to play, but also something I could only experience on the platform. Now comes Pulse: Volume One, from Philadelphia-based developer Cipher Prime, and I am happy to say that it succeeds in filling that void.

Pulse: Volume One is a rhythm-based music game and the idea is to keep up with the beat. The screen is filled with rings, as a circular pulse emanates from the center. Round music notes will appear along each ring and the object is to tap the notes as the pulse intersects them. It's all done to the beat of the music and a successful strike will cause the note to burst into colorful birds or musical notes.

It's something that took some getting used to, since the tutorial didn’t fully explain how to strike the right notes. I didn't fully get the hang of it until the third song. Pulse: Volume One is like a lot of other rhythm games, in that you learn as you go and you get better at it the longer you play. For example, I started the first full song ("Straylight") with a paltry 65 percent. After I went through each of the songs and learned the ropes a little more, I was able to go back to "Straylight" and finish with a much-improved 96 percent. Pulse is every bit as addictive as some of the best rhythm games on the market and its unique game mechanics serve as a fine way to freshen up what's been a stale genre for the past few years. It brings back the spirit of rhythm games that are fun to play and tough to master.

The only problem I had with Pulse: Volume One is that the difficulty amps up quickly. The beginner songs are fun to follow along with, but there’s a sudden jump in intensity upon reaching a track dubbed "Cinder." Not only are there more rings, but there are also notes that require up to two or three simultaneous strikes. The quickened-pace also had me looking frantically around the edges of the iPad to make sure I wasn't missing notes, but it was all for naught, as I was hearing thump after thump to cruelly show me that I was missing notes left and right. Fortunately, a lot of the pressure is taken off, because there doesn’t seem to be any way to fail the songs. I heard a lot of thumping and my score looked pathetic, but I was never given any kind of failure screen, which is a relief to those that just want to enjoy the music.

Speaking of which, the soundtrack is beautiful. Pulse: Volume One is all about the music and every one of these instrumental tracks is a pleasure to listen to, whether you want to relax with one of the slower beginner songs or tap your feet to the more up-tempo tunes.

Pulse: Volume One is one of those games that every iPad owner should have ready for life's more monotonous moments. It's great for bus rides, waits at the doctor's office, lines at the DMV, and anything else that would eat up your day and stress you out. Just pop in your earbuds and go. Pulse: Volume One is not only fun, but it's also a relaxing experience. It's also a short one, as the average player will run through all of the songs in about a half-hour. Don’t let that stop you from putting down $4.99, though, because Cipher Prime will constantly add to the song library through free updates every few weeks, the first of which is expected in early June. Music lovers and iPad owners, Pulse has arrived and it's what you’ve been waiting for.

[This review of Pulse for the iPad is based on a review code provided by the developer. The game is available on the iTunes App Store for $4.99.]

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