Op-Ed

Op-Ed
eFocus Notes: Piano Wizard and Dancing for Jesus

Russ Pitts | 10 May 2006 17:34
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The first of what I am narcissistically assuming will be many party invites came through last night, prompting me to not only shower, but to also dress nicely for the eFocus party at the California Market Center Monday night.

I've been perhaps unkindly calling this the E3 for Wannabes, but it's a fitting moniker. We saw exhibits from a number of hardware and peripheral manufacturers, most of whom were not on the E3 show floor.

Mice are, for the most part, mice so we saw no need to visit JPL or Kingston. What we did see were a couple of interesting games, most notable of which was Piano Wizard. The program bills itself as an edu-tainment title, and I believe that it's one of the first to truly deserve that label.

Clearly patterned after Guitar Hero, the game comes in two flavors - one with a large keyboard peripheral, another with a smaller one - and plays a lot like its guitar-bound forebear. At least in the early stages. Color-coded notes scroll up the screen, prompting the player to press the correct key to play the song. Where it gets interesting however, is in the later stages. As the player's skill improves, the screen can be rotated 90 degrees, causing the notes to scroll across the screen horizontally. This makes playing the game a touch harder, but also teaches the player, in effect, how to read tablature. It's an interesting approach and one that promises to bring joy to a great many music teachers' hearts.

The second most interesting game to be seen at eFocus was Dance Praise, developed by Christian game publisher, Digital Praise. The game is essentially a Dance Dance Revolution clone set to Christian Pop music. Digital Praise publishes a fairly large catalog of so-called "family alternative" games, including an entire line featuring Christian author, Max Lucado's, Hermie character; but Dance Praise is so far their most successful title.

Their representative had a number of interesting things to say about the state of the world and how "negative" games are contributing to same, which prompted only a little eye-rolling from this editor. He was also a bit put off by my martini glass, but I tried, in the spirit of tolerance, not to notice.

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