One of the earliest iPhone games released on the App Store back in 2008 was Tap Tap Revenge. Following games like Guitar Hero and Rock band before it on consoles, Tap Tap Revenge was structured around having players follow falling, colored dots on the screen and tap as they fell within a hollowed circle at the bottom of the screen. There have been multiple mixed of this idea since the birth of the App Store, but SAAZ ($2.99) takes a welcomed, simplistic spin on the idea while leaving the core mechanics the exact same.
SAAZ is a game entrenched in its ability to be calming and challenging in the same breath. As opposed to the pop, hip-hop, and uptempo songs featured in the Tap Tap series and games like it, SAAZ exclusively features classical or historic era musical renditions. This allows for almost subconscious gameplay as you press and subtly recall what each composition sounds like simply from hearing it in the background throughout the years. There’s no essential move to make when a beat drops or an intense and fast bass to follow; it’s just the instrumentation itself.
When first opened, the game showcases two of the many playable composers at the bottom of the screen with their musical compositions as the “level” to be played. The gameplay is par for the course of any rhythm based game – as the orbs slide down, you tap the circle as the orb fills it. Occasionally, orbs with lines extended through them will drop meaning you’re required to tap and hold for the duration of that line. If a similar one drops with an orb at the opposite end, it’s a hold then tap combination. The gameplay of this game is welcoming for anyone who has played any rhythm game before and easy to get the hang of in the off chance that every game before has flown under the radar.
As you progress through each level, you earn between 0 and 3 stars, 0 being horrible, 3 being nearly perfect the entire way through. To unlock the other 44 composers and genres, you have to accumulate an increasing amount of stars. To unlock every level available, a total of 106 stars are required. As the intensity of the levels increases, the music gets faster, but never unbearable. One of the later stages, Irish Jig, perfectly captures the maximum intensity expected throughout the game. An Irish jig is known for being fast, quick paced, with robust noises cascading through each instrument. Here, it’s no different and the game plays at its most complex.
Throughout the game, the intensity increases slightly with each new level unlocked. As each level is played and it’s naturally learnt what to expect to get a perfect score, the neighboring level throw a slightly harder rendition. When playing, the goal of an all-perfect score becomes attainable, but there are never any strange, ridiculously hard loops. It is a perfect parallel to learning to play an instrument, seeing someone play, attempting it yourself, and eventually becoming a master. It’s a process of rinse and repeat or simply following a rhythm within SAAZ, but the same principles apply.
Where the game sets itself apart is by pairing an oft-forgotten genre of music with a more modern game style. In essence, composed music lives in a realm wherein it can be followed with eyes closed; calm, relaxing. There are more intense levels with more instrumentation happening, but it’s almost as if the sounds themselves become an afterthought as you effortlessly tap the orbs as they fall. There’s no overarching vocals, random noises, or glaringly loud clashing noises to distract you. It follows sounds and rhythms perfectly. If by the end of one round it’s proving to be too challenging, it slowly begins to get easier and easier as moments are remembered, patterns are identified and followed, and locking into a motion of how to beat that particular level becomes subconscious.
SAAZ is a similar game, yet different and built for a niche. There are undoubtedly fans of classical music and legendary compositions. There are also fans of rhythm-based iOS games. However, the niche is the fans that inhabit the center of that Venn diagram. The game works itself into a form for that specific niche. It doesn’t have anything overbearing, too complicated, or odd to maneuver. It’s simplistic, it’s easy to play, and it’s perfect for those people looking for a game that can perfectly align itself with their musical tastes.