Song Summoner: The Unsung Heroes

Song Summoner: The Unsung Heroes

Song Summoner: The Unsung Heroes

Making magic out of your iPod music?

You'd assume that a union of two cultural giants like Square Enix and Apple would be of such earth-shaking significance that it would buckle pavements, bring skyscrapers sighing to the ground, and trigger mass extinctions around the globe. But, as a downloadable iPod game, Song Summoner is not built with posterity in mind. Wisely, it's built with bus journeys in mind instead, and as such it will have to leave the pomp and circumstance for other titles. That's not to say Song Summoner is a bad game - it's actually quite a good one most of the time - but it is, by design, fairly slight, and it's also home to an uneasy mix of the gimmicky and the traditional.

The gimmick first. Song Summoner's big idea is to take the music in your iPod library and transform it into Tune Troopers, fearsome warriors who can then be sent into battle. (Although, in my case, it takes the music in my library and transforms it into a selection of foppish and wheezing weaklings, who slink onto the field of conflict ripe only for dismemberment - serves me right for a lingering fondness for Elastica, presumably.) After you submit a track of your choice, the game uses the music file to generate the class and abilities of your party member, turning Elvis' "Burning Love" into a defensive archer, for example, or yanking an underpowered monk out of Lionel Richie's moronic "Dancing on the Ceiling". The venue where this all takes place is called the Hip-o-Drome, incidentally, which I mention only because it sounds like an intriguing retro-futuristic osteoarthritis clinic, which probably isn't the effect the designers were going for.

With your songs rendered into a broad cross-section of spiky-haired and be-zippered anime cliché, it's time for the more conservative aspects to take centre-stage. Song Summoner is, at heart, an enjoyable but generic strategy RPG. It's broadly cut in the style of Final Fantasy Tactics, but with much of the depth stripped away, by necessity, so it can be played between stops on the Northern Line. So while there are battles to win and a smattering of tactical options available in the turn-based gameplay, there's little in the way of genuine challenge or variety for those who have already peered into the near-bottomless well of a Disgaea or Fire Emblem.

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