Anyone remember Music and Music 2000? The Codemasters games for PlayStation One that enabled you to create your very own (quite rubbish) tracks? Yes? No? Well Rockstar has decided to have a go at making one themselves, based loosely on a Flash app that the uber-developer put together for their website back in 2005. Now with the involvement of superstar hip-hop producer Timbaland, who is apparently an avid gamer, Beaterator is less a game, more a surprisingly versatile music creation tool. Still, for the purposes of this preview, we're going to refer to it as a game anyway.
Made exclusively for the PSP, Beaterator is divided into three distinct sections - Live Play, Studio Session and Song Crafter. Of these modes, Live Play is the most game-like allowing you to simply mess around, experimenting with the almost 3000 loops that have been crammed into the game. Of these, Rockstar has crafted 1200 themselves whereas 1700 have been created by Timbaland especially for Beaterator.
Development duties for the title have fallen to Rockstar Leeds, the handheld specialists responsible for the PSP and DS versions of GTA. Beaterator is presented in a fun and colourful style designed to appeal to as broad a demographic as possible. As such the controls have been streamlined and simplified to make mixing and creating your own tunes completely effortless. Not only is Beaterator enormously accessible, but great consideration and care has been taken in providing a variety of musical genres to play with, with potential downloadable updates arriving in the future. Presently, there are seven genres that can be mixed and matched, including drum & bass, rock, hip-hop and (vomit) UK Garage.
The best place to begin your Beaterator experience is with Live Play, the most pick up and play mode, where a stylised cartoon caricature of Timbaland stands in the centre of what looks like Homer Simpson's nuclear control console, pressing buttons and tweaking knobs as you layer drum, bass, keyboard and synth loops on top of one another. There are eight channels available on the sound bank that you can use to lay down the various loops and depending upon your ability to gauge what sounds good, you'll either put together a cacophonous racket or a melodic masterwork.
If your composition leans more towards the former, you can record your track live and take it into the Studio, where you can edit it to your liking. What's more, if you're not happy with any of the existing loops that the professionals have painstakingly made for the game, you can also re-edit them and create your own bespoke variations. Or alternatively, you can start from scratch and build your own loops using the beautifully uncomplicated Loop Crafter.
Which is where Beaterator's third and final section comes into play - the Song Crafter. This portion is a tool that lets you get deep into the nitty-gritty of your track, where you can edit any of the loops in detail using a full 88 key piano or a configuration of notes represented by dots. How deep you want to go depends entirely upon how much time you're willing to spend on your custom loop.
The beauty of Beaterator's system is that it can be as simple or as complicated as you want. Casual players will find that they can have hours of fun looping beats and samples in Live Play, whereas someone looking for added depth can extend the experience into Studio Session and Song Crafter. Anyone daunted by the prospect of editing their tracks in the studio mode can rest easy however, as there's a comprehensive glossary and reference guide that can be referred to at any time. There's also a handy save reminder that pops up intermittently to ensure you don't lose anything you've put together so far.
It's certainly worth the time to acquaint yourself with the many intricacies and functions that Beaterator has to offer, as you're able to fashion tracks that sound accomplished and professional. The ability to edit on the fly as your track plays is a nice touch, enabling you to identify just exactly what is or isn't working. You can adjust BPM, volume, swing and pan to add effects to your tracks and you can even record your own external sounds in the form of WAV and MIDI files using the newer PSP model's mic. Then, if you're really proud of your magnum opus, you can post it to Facebook to share with the world.
Our first look at the game gives us the impression that Beaterator will provide hours of entertainment, as even the casual fun that the Live Play mode brings is compulsive enough to keep you thoroughly engaged.
Beaterator is looking like an incredibly sophisticated piece of kit and something that budding music producers will certainly find both endlessly entertaining and massively useful. There's already a vast library of loops and samples squeezed onto the standalone UMD, yet with potential for DLC support - including individual tracks and maybe even full albums from the Timbaland stable - Beaterator could very well keep you making music for years.