Staff Wars is fundamentally a space invaders style game that works horizontally instead of vertically. The aim of the game is to familiarise the players with 3 clefs, treble, bass and strangely the alto clef. You choose a clef, set your note range, click start and away you go. Personally I think there are some short comings in the game but let me explain.
What Happens in Staff Wars
Once you start the game notes appear from the right side of the screen and move slowly to the left. You have a selection of buttons along the bottom that coincide with the note names from C through to B. When you click a note name your space ship will fire at the note; If correct, you score a point and if you get it wrong the note disappears and you lose a life. Also, if the note hits the clef on the left you lose a life.
When you progress, your level increases. As your level increases you’re introduced to a new layer of music to build tension. Then the notes start to move across the staff a little faster. This is effective because the game could end up lasting quite some time. The speed adds pressure but the faster it gets, the more cracks start to show in the controls.
Confusing Control System
The notes start at C and moving through D, E, F, G, A and B. It can be slightly confusing going to the left for higher notes. It is possible to rotate the notes to suit the staff you’re playing on a little better. If you’re playing on the treble clef, notes that come along within the range of your buttons are fine. If you play piano then you’ll understand that moving left on the game screen to play higher notes is counter-intuitive. In saying that, the controls are responsive so when you’re playing the faster levels they work effectively.
Graphically the game is fine. Whilst you can tell it’s not been drawn by the worlds leading digital artists it looks fine. There are some clipping issues with the staff on Android but I haven’t tested it on any other platforms. It serves a purpose. Navigating the menus and setting parameters is intuitive and there aren’t too many options to get bogged down with.
I think the biggest bugbear in the game with me is the setting of note ranges. You can click on the range button and there a number of presets. The game is focussed on learning one clef at a time which is not ideal for beginner pianists. Having an option to input a range based on the what you know already would be good. Ideally, the customisation would allow you to extend the knowledge of the player. For example, it would be great to set C4 to G4. However, if they are already well known then add the A and B to push a little more.
Also, for the piano learner, having the option to spread notes across the grand staff would be ideal. It doesn’t take long in the early learning books for students to start using both hands to extend up and down from middle C but Staff Wars doesn’t really help with that.
Where Staff Wars does shine for me is differentiating the strengths and weaknesses of reading notes on the staff. For example, one of my pupils scored 44 on the treble clef and 22 on the bass clef. This make it easy to find what staff a student needs to work on. This is a fun way to develop note reading skills between lessons.
Good Game to Get Going
Staff Wars is available on the App Store, Google Play and Kindle Fire. It costs less then a pound with no sneaky in app purchases. There are better games available on the market. However the game is fun, doesn’t take long to set up and play and keeps everyone learning.