Pianista takes the major elements of the modern rhythm game and sets them to a playlist a few centuries old. Get ready to embrace your inner classical music enthusiast, even if you don’t think that part of you exists.
The core gameplay revolves around tapping four types of notes at the right time: singles, doubles, slides, and holds. Singles, doubles, and holds are self-explanatory, while slides feature a series of notes in quick succession that require only one tap. There’s nothing new here, but it plays out incredibly well, other than the somewhat obtrusive note counter in the center of the screen. The sync is spot-on, thumb-tapping feels natural (at least on my iPhone), and the slides never fail to put a smile on my face.
Pianista handles difficulty similarly well, with each song classified by a base number that ranges from one to six, and three additional settings to choose from. You can freely switch between normal and technical modes, with the latter adding more notes and harder combos. There’s also a speed setting, which allows you to adjust up to a 3x multiplier, and fade, which limits note visibility. If you fancy yourself a serious digital virtuoso, you can even combine elements from all three settings to create insanely difficult songs.
Pianista features a 40-song library with music from all the big names, including Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and many more. You’ll play through these songs in two modes: collection and shuffle. Collection mode lets you play any song you’ve purchased, and shuffle mode gives you access to the game’s entire library of songs, but they’re presented at random. Unfortunately, both modes are plagued by poor design decisions.
In shuffle, you can’t skip songs without spending gold, the game’s primary currency. While it’s probably not an issue for players who rock at rhythm games, less skilled players won’t be able to skip a tough song. As for collection mode, you’ll have to spend real money or a serious chunk of time to unlock everything. Songs start at 7,000 gold and rise sharply from there, and you’ll typically take only 200 gold for playing a song in shuffle. And if you’d rather just buy them outright, be prepared to spend an outrageous £3 or more per song.
There’s also another type of currency called music points. Every song you play - yeah, even the ones you’ve already purchased - consume one music point. When you run out, you’re done playing unless you buy more or wait it out. I understand that this is a common mechanic, but I would have happily paid once for unlimited play. Sadly, there’s not even an option to do that.
It’s disappointing that Pianista’s fluid and addicting gameplay is entirely undermined by design choices that don’t make much sense. It’s worth diving into in small doses, but the cash to value ratio isn’t pretty, and I have a hard time recommending a game that makes you pay to play content that you’ve already paid for.
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
Pianista is a great experience when you're actually playing songs. Unfortunately, the shining gameplay is let down by timers, expensive songs, and the lack of unlimited play for the songs you purchase.