With no formal training, a deficient sense of rhythm, and an acute case of tone-deafness, I began my music career in the summer of 1989. A peripheral called the Replay Professional transformed my modest Atari ST in a sampler, allowing me to tweak recorded sounds into primitive music. While the output may have been closer to cacophony than the sounds of say, Depeche Mode or New Order, I didn’t care. The process of creating music using contemporary technology was invigorating.
Twenty years later, an immensely superior music creation package is now available on portable gaming systems. Beaterator for the PSP offers aspiring musicians (and those fascinated with knob-twiddling) a rich set of tools to make your creations. Like my old sampling accessory, it won’t turn novices into consummate virtuosos. Yet, if players commit a few hours of time with the tool, grooves will inevitably result.
Most maestros should probably start with Beaterator’s Live Play mode. Here users can fill a collection of sound banks with prerecorded loops, from bass lines and guitar riffs to drum fills and ambient sonic textures. A press of the face buttons begins looping a sample, allowing players to create detailed impromptu creations with a minimal amount of effort. Once users learn to construct a respectable rhythm, they can record their efforts for future playback.
The game’s Studio mode has two distinct facets: Session, for remixing melodies made in Live Play mode, and Crafter, which allows for comprehensive song creation. Here, Beaterator’s video and textual tutorials guide users through nearly every element of the application. The game’s star- Timbaland hosts broad overviews of the tools, while more specific lessons are delivered by secondary talent. Although the coaching may be redundant for users who’ve dabbled in a music creation package, it well certainly assist the apprentice. Luckily, players can turn of the game’s tutorial at any time.
With modes for constructing melodies, recording sounds, adding and editing samples and synths, the Crafter contains a profusion of sound options. Unlike similar programs for gaming consoles, Beaterator allows users to add their own samples to the game’s aural palette, greatly increasing the longevity of the title. Similarly, the title’s input and output options are extensive, allowing tunesmiths to create or import MIDI, WAV, or MP3 files.
While full-featured, desktop-based, music construction suites have been able to harness a mouse and keyboard input method, Beaterator is confined to the PSP’s six buttons, a directional pad, and an analog nub. Although it’s certainly not an ideal scheme, the title ensures that each feature is intuitively accessible. Skillfully, most commands are shown on-screen, making a task like cropping a sample, painless. Although the title forgoes the use of user-defined hotkeys, its instinctive design alleviates the need for any custom controls. While a variety of music genres exist- from rock, pop, hip-hop, house and even U.K. Garage, I would have liked to have seen more diversity. Maybe, Timbaland’s not a fan of trance.
With a recent reduction of the titles price to $19.99 USD, any PSP owner with the slightest interest in musical composition should pick up Beaterator. Although the title’s learning curve may daunt musical neophytes, its full-featured approach to composition means users wont exhaust it’s capabilities in a few hours. Far more of a tool than a game, Beaterator is one of those rare application that truly shows the power of Sony’s Playstation Portable.