Music is an amazing thing. It does something to us, touching the soul in intangible ways that often defy explanation. It can be transcendent and brilliant inciting a passionate response. Unless the music in question is manufactured pop bilge, crappy hard house or some such.
Whatever happens to be your bag - musically speaking of course - you can have a crack at composing your very own efforts using Rockstar Leeds' Beaterator, a collaboration between the studio and globally renowned mega-producer Mr. Timbaland.
Let's establish something right off the bat for the purposes of this here review. Beaterator is not a game and as such, we won't be reviewing it as one. There are certainly gamey elements present in Beaterator, but primarily, it is a music-making tool and a fairly powerful one at that, especially given the relative limitations of the PSP platform.
As it happens though, Beaterator is perfectly at home on Sony's handheld; enabling you to constantly fiddle with your embryonic tracks during the brief moments you might get travelling to and from work. Or you can spend extended periods building intricate tunes, layer by layer, with your headphones plugged in as you conduct your own private mixing session.
Then again, you might not fancy getting too heavily involved in the studio side of things, which is where the Live Play mode will hold the most appeal. Live Play is where casual players will likely have the most fun. It's the best way to start your experience with Beaterator, experimenting with, combining and generally messing about with the thousands of loops at your fingertips in the extensive library.
You're given eight separate channels - bass, drums 1 & 2, backing, keys, synth 1 & 2, guitar - to play with and each channel has four sounds to choose from mapped to each of the PSP's four face buttons. Loops assigned to each button can be swapped out for others via the menu list of sounds made by both Timbaland and the Rockstar dev team, if you so wish. You can mix and match loops from Beaterator's seven genres to create a Frankenstein's monster of a track, stitched together from disparate parts, or you can construct a masterpiece out of matching loops from the same type of music.
Whatever you decide, you can record your jam sessions from Live Play before then taking them into the Studio Session, where you can re-edit and refine your rough cut into something more complete. You're able to add effects such as reverb, swing and pan as well as increasing or decreasing the BPM of your track. You can cut and paste small pieces of your track or entire tracts of notes at a time, all while your track plays if you like. You have full control over virtually every component of your melody, so you're able to craft pretty much any kind of musical creation you can imagine. The only limit is your own patience and how much time you're willing to sink into making music.
If you're willing to spend the time getting into the details of what Beaterator has to offer, the rewards are immensely satisfying. Song Crafter mode allows you to delve even deeper into the options available to you, with every tiny facet present for you to tinker with. You can even compose your bespoke melody note by note if you have the time and the inclination to do so. Use the newer PSP's integrated microphone and you can record your very own samples too as WAV or MIDI files, making the possibilities endless.
If you happen to find all of this a tad too intimidating, then fret not. There's plenty of casual fun to be had simply fiddling around with the reams of loops at your disposal in Live Play - and there's the promise of more to come in the future. There's a concise and easy to use reference guide to help ease you into Beaterator's other more in-depth aspects, so you needn't be put off by the seemingly daunting task of putting together a song from scratch. Beaterator's interface is user-friendly enough to welcome you in with open arms, with its many dials, knobs and buttons all intuitively set out.
Slickly presented and impeccably well put together, Beaterator is an incredibly accomplished piece of music-making software that will keep you occupied for as long as you're invested in creating your own tracks. The wealth of tools Rockstar Leeds has managed to pack into something designed for the PSP is admirable and it's nice to see something refreshingly different on the format. With forthcoming DLC potentially offering new genres and extra loops to add to your sound bank, Beaterator's lifespan is limited only by the amount of effort you're prepared to put in, and that for some may be the only real barrier impeding your prospective enjoyment of what Rockstar's portable melody maker has to offer.