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.detuned Review

October 29th, 2009 by

.detuned is a music based title recently released on Playstation Network for PS3. Will it be music to your ears, or a melodic mistake?

First impressions of .detuned’s presentation are not good. When you boot the ‘game’ up you are presented with an early PS2 era loading screen; a ‘loading’ bar, in white, on a black background. Get with the fucking program SCEA Santa Monica; it’s 2009, we require small, cylindrically arranged flashing circles to tell us to sit still and be patient.

But wait. This isn’t developed by Sony at all, but rather by .theprodukkt, an upcoming German developer heavily involved with independent games creation and the ‘demoscene’, a community of game artists that create programs that respond to music with or without a level of interactivity. If you’re still unsure what that is, think the visualisation options on Windows Media Player, but much, much more complex. So then… weird company name… a developer from Germany… independently produced… yep, looks like we’re in for an art game! But don’t be down-heartened, I’m here to tell you it’s good, when approached in the right way.
It’s not stuffy and it’s not pretentious, it’s just arty and theres nothing necessarily wrong with that, but while I’ll defend the existence of art on consoles to the bitter end, this is certainly not a ‘game’. There aren’t really rules to follow, nothing to collect or destroy, no story, and barring exceptionally easy trophies, nothing to achieve. But what there is after the relatively small download, is something that wouldn’t feel out of place in a gallery of modern art. Unlike most ‘demoscene’ experiments, .detuned is interactive; a man sitting in a chair in an electric blue landscape is your play thing, as is the music that accompanies the scene. By ‘pumping’ the R2 and L2 buttons, different effects can be placed on the avatar, and on the score, with effects ranging from inflating the man’s head and slowing the beat, to splitting him into four and ripping all the bass out of the song. You can add modifiers to this with the analog sticks, in order to make the most interesting visuals possible, but that’s pretty much it. The controls are very precise, and the range of motions actually quite disturbing. Convulsing in the chair as if experiencing a fit is accurately grotesque, and each play through can truly feel like the equivalent of a bad drug trip. One effect in particular affects the sound in such a way to be audibly more ‘real’, more present in the room if that makes sense, another changes the soundscape entirely differently, making it incredibly depressing and almost offensive to listen to.
.detuned is exactly what you make of it, literally and figuratively. With just one song to play around with and the aforementioned lack of objectives, you can see all the piece has to offer in half an hour. For the kind of person that this is an issue for, this title is not for you, you’ll be wanting something with a little more in the way of direction or a conclusion that is more than simply the final bar of a tune. To those with an inquisitive nature and an interest in games being something more than just Space Invaders, you’re best bet is to take advantage of the hard drive nestling inside that PS3, rip some songs and experiment with those in game, approaching it as a ‘toy’ to have on with company over. Something to have on in the background while entertaining and as a discussion point for the tech-savvy art crowd at a dinner party, this is where .detuned shines the brightest. Further proof then that, at the moment, PSN clinches it if you’re looking for an experience totally like no other. It joins Noby Noby Boy, Flower and Tori-Emaki as innovative but smaller products we can hold up as incredibly creative titles, pioneering a new wave of digital entertainment, blurring the line between kinetic art and video game.

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