Melodive is a game that belongs in a category all of its own. If I were forced into being haphazard with labels and genres, I would call it an endless music-based flight simulation exploration game. But it’s not nearly as contrived as that sounds. In Melodive you free-fall (or perhaps free fly) down an endless cave. You begin floating aimlessly through a vacuum of empty space, with only the glimmer of colorful lights in the faraway distance. But soon enough you’re navigating through corridors of cave formations and neon mushrooms as you journey deeper and deeper down into the darkness.
Your objective? Collect as many of the sparkling “melodium” particles as possible. As you pass through and collect waves of the melodium that float through space, your speed boost meter fills up and a sporadic soundtrack is built. Each color represents a different group of cacophonous noises, but they somehow come together to form a beautiful kaleidoscope of music and sound. Similarly beautiful are the flashes of light that strike like lightning across the dark landscape and reflect off the chunks of rocky surfaces.
Movement in Melodive is accomplished by turning and tilting your device, while tapping and holding on the screen will let you use that speed boost you’ve built up. The controls aren’t precise at all—if you’re not careful, the floaty controls will leave you disoriented, unable to tell up from down. Somehow, it totally works, though—primarily because everything in Melodive is so well-connected. From the colors and sounds that correspond together to the cave formations that build up as you travel faster and deeper down, it’s all part of a cohesive abstract experience.
Melodive isn’t all just about exploration though. There’s a high score-chasing arcade element to it as well. The game’s endless structure allows you to gain high scores based on how much melodium you collect, how fast you travel, and how deep you get. Unfortunately, this side of things isn’t quite as fleshed out. There’s an odd tension between the more meditative experience of exploring the game’s artistic concepts and the more competitive experience of trying to get a high score. The progression of the game’s difficulty doesn’t ramp up in the way you’d expect it to and there just isn’t enough friction to bring your playthrough to a halt. Fortunately, Melodive doesn’t fully commit to these more arcade elements and the stats end up being just a way of gauging what you experienced in your run.
Compliments for Melodive’s artistry are well-deserved. The contrast between the bright colors and the empty blackness are striking, as is the soundtrack that is spontaneously created. But the real success of Melodive is how these artistic elements are implemented into the gameplay mechanics to create a holistic experience, made specifically with your iDevice in mind. If you still aren’t convinced that mobile device are home to some of the most creative, experiential independent videogames available, one dive into Melodive’s spacious caves should be enough to convert you into an App Store evangelist.
Developer: Johan Gjestland
Release Date: 3/7/2013