An experimental music game from the Netherands pits digital tanks against cello-powered machine guns.
Generally, there are two kinds of interactive music games. First, you have those that mimic musical performances, like Rock Band or Guitar Hero. Then you have games that generate enemies or obstacles using the beat of the music, like Audiosurf or Beat Hazard. Until now there hasn’t been a great of overlap between the styles, but developer Joost van Donegen may have come up with a way to do so in Cello Fortress. Currently on tour in the Netherlands, the game pits four players on XBox controllers against a single cellist who controls the environment simply by playing musical notes.
“Cello Fortress is a really weird and unique game,” van Dongen said. “But for me, it makes a lot of sense: playing cello has been a hobby of mine for ages, and I am a professional game developer. I like to make weird, unique things. How could these ingredients not combine into a game?”
In Cello Fortress, four players from the audience take control of in-game tanks and attempt to blow up as many cannons as possible. The cannons are controlled directly by the cellist, which each note triggering a different kind of ammunition. High notes fire the guns, low notes lay mines, and ugly chords (whatever those are) let the player cut loose with flamethrowers. Overall, this lends Cello Fortress a strong improvisational tone, as the cellist can alter both the soundtrack and the battlefield on the fly.
Sadly, even if you’re an experienced cellist, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to play Cello Fortress for some time. The game’s beta is designed with public performances in mind, so unless you’re in the Netherlands or van Dongen develops a living room equivalent, nobody’s getting a weaponized cello. That said, the concept has a great deal of potential, and perhaps we’ll see other developers experiment further with the idea. I imagine there are many aspiring musicians who would love to claim they fought an advancing army using nothing but a musical instrument… and won.