LOS ANGELES — Before they fizzled out, my chief compliant about those tap-happy “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” franchises was that they didn’t really teach players anything about music. They were simply color-coded amusements. Now, here comes “Fantasia: Music Evolved” (Disney, for the Xbox One and Xbox 360, $59.99) to take rhythmic superfluousness to a new level.
Named after the 1940 animated film, “Music Evolved” relies on the Kinect camera system to transform players into imaginary conductors who must swipe their arms in sync with various tunes. As tracks progress, they can remix songs and create beats and melodies using only their hands.
“Music Evolved” is basically a dash of “Rock Band” with a pinch of the choreography game “Dance Central,” which were all cooked up by developer Harmonix. It’s decidedly difficult to learn but ultimately easy to master. After a few hours, I found it harder to navigate the game’s menus than to wiggle along to The Police’s “Message in a Bottle.”
As with “Just Dance,” or any type of game that gets gamers off the couch, it’s more fun to collaborate. Outside the single-player story-driven mode of “Music Evolved,” it’s possible for a pair of wannabe band leaders to duet on the game’s 32 songs, which each feature two dramatically remixed tracks that can be combined and transformed during performances.
The game’s song selection truly soars. It might be the most diverse lineup ever featured in a rhythm title. There are rock classics (Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Elton John’s “Rocket Man”), hip-hop staples (Missy Elliot’s “Get Ur Freak On,” Gorillaz’s “Feel Good Inc.”) and modern pop (Lorde’s “Royals,” Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven”) to please all palates.
In a nod to the movie, “Music Evolved” even features classical fare from the likes of Dvorak, Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi. The game’s core mechanic of flailing your arms around like a traffic controller feels more exhilarating while doing it to Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” rather than Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass,” which are both featured in the game.
However, this “Fantasia” feels like a “Fantasia” in name only. Other than a magic-fueled plot driven by the film’s bearded sorcerer, Yen Sid, there isn’t much Disney in this Disney game. The lone Mouse House tune is Demi Lovato’s take on “Let It Go” from “Frozen,” and that’s only available as a downloadable bonus track.
Themed worlds that serve as intermediary channels between songs provide “Music Evolved” with its most sparkle. Unfortunately, lush interactive landscapes like a fairy-lit forest and an undersea fantasy are merely backdrops during actual songs. If they were better integrated, the designers might have created dazzling cacophony worthy of the “Fantasia” moniker.
In the end, despite a dynamic track list and some stunning visuals, “Music Evolved” is a game about waving your hands in the air — and I just don’t care. While individual elements hit the right note, they don’t make a beautiful music game together.