UK REVIEW--Maestro! Jump in Music offers a fresh take on the rhythm genre by mixing music with platforming to make a surprisingly fun game. You play as a cute bird called Presto, who you control by plucking the strings he walks on. If your timing is right, you play a number of classic and contemporary songs, while also making Presto jump between platforms and collect notes for points. This results in frantic and fun gameplay as you create songs by tapping and dragging the stylus. While the lack of multiplayer modes, the short length, and musical repetition dampen the experience somewhat, Maestro manages to be both enjoyable and challenging enough to keep you engaged from start to finish.
Presto is a gifted conductor who has won the affection of female avian Belle. When his actions enrage fellow suitor Staccato, the spider exacts revenge on the lovebirds and the rest of the universe by creating a magical curse that silences all creatures, dooming them to a future without music. Your journey takes you through six areas in a quest to restore music to the world, which you do by unlocking notes found in each stage. Maestro takes place in an imaginative, detailed world filled with appealing characters. It tries too hard to be funny at times with lame jokes and cliches (such as, "Houston, we have a problem…Presto is on the dark side of the moon"), and the ending features a twist which cheapens the story before it, but it's a lighthearted and whimsical journey overall.
Maestro is an interesting mix of rhythm and platforming that will appeal to fans of both genres. Presto automatically walks at a steady pace along platforms that look like strings, and these represent the time and pitch of the music, much like a stave. It's your job to pluck the strings when instructed, which not only plays the song, but allows Presto to collect notes above or below, earning you points. The notes move across the screen from the right side, instead of from above like in Guitar Hero. Presto collects some notes as he walks into them, while others are collected by tapping or dragging the stylus. While your primary focus is to collect notes, you also need to make sure Presto doesn't fall into the gaps between platforms. If this happens, the song continues, but you miss a short section of notes. You can also strum notes that appear on strings above or below Presto, and as long as you don't strum through the string he's on, he'll continue unabated.
The soundtrack includes pop songs, such as The Jackson 5's ABC and Madness's Our House, and rock, like The Animals' The House of the Rising Sun and Screamin' Jay Hawkins' I Put a Spell on You. However, the vast majority of the lineup is classical music, such as Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt. They're instantly recognisable and fun to play, but the soundtrack would have benefitted from a more varied lineup of genres. After completing each level, you're given a grade based on how many notes you successfully hit, with a score of B+ or higher required to continue to the next level. Maestro does away with a typical performance meter during songs; instead, Presto sports a crown whenever you're playing at an acceptable level. At the beginning of the game, Presto is singing, so it's a bit strange that all of the songs are instrumental--even the ones that originally featured vocals. You have the option to "sing" into the DS microphone at the same time you hit each note, but though this fills a meter that represents your singing ability, it doesn't have any effect on the game, so it's ultimately pointless.
Maestro does a good job of keeping you entertained throughout the adventure. The tutorial successfully teaches you the basic controls and gameplay, and the well-pitched difficulty curve means the gameplay remains challenging as you progress. The game rewards you with new mechanics, such as the addition of drum beats to tap or mandolins and harps that you need to strum in various ways. You jump, fall, strum, tap, and add other actions to create a moving orchestral performance, and later stages introduce more notes to each song, while demanding fewer mistakes. At the end of each three-level world, you need to fight Staccato in a boss battle. These levels require you to listen to sections of music and then repeat them back, note for note. Beating Staccato loses its appeal after the first few encounters, because it's mostly the same experience each time, and a greater variety of boss characters would have been more fun. Unfortunately, the story is short, and if you're familiar with rhythm games, it will take only a couple of hours to get through the game's 25 songs on the default level. Once you've completed the game, two harder difficulty levels are unlocked. These add more notes (and thus complexity) to each song and feature longer versions of each. The added difficulties ramp up the challenge and it’s likely to take multiple attempts to get through each one. In addition to the campaign mode, Maestro gives you the option of replaying individual songs, with or without being scored. The lack of multiplayer modes, however, is disappointing. It would have been fun to compete against a friend for the highest score, or play together as Presto and Belle in co-op, so this is something of a missed opportunity.
Maestro's visuals are creative, from the animated characters to the vibrant environments. The backgrounds are interesting and varied, and your adventures will take you to jungles, oceans, a Venetian-inspired city, the Wild West, and even the depths of space. Presto has an undeniable charm, whether he is frantically flapping his wings to reach a higher note or taking a bow after each song. Each area features different enemies, from insects in the jungle to creatures of the deep, and they're all animated with amusing expressions, such as the Mexican bandit-style chicken called Chickenito, who throws his sombrero at you if you fail to hit him in time.
Maestro! Jump in Music is a fun and refreshing experience, combining rhythm and platforming into a cute adventure. While the story is short-lived, the soundtrack could do with more variety, and multiplayer is nonexistent, the additional difficulty levels offer plenty of replay value. If you're a fan of instrumental music or are looking for an interesting take on the music genre, then you should consider adding Maestro to your repertoire.