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Plugged In

Music gaming levels up with Cello Fortress

Plugged In

You’ve played plenty of video games using fake electric guitars, but how about something a bit…classier?

Cello Fortress -- yes, cello -- combines video games, classical music and concert tours to create what very well may be the most unique multimedia experience to come around in years.

Playable only at live events, Cello Fortress is an interactive play experience that's also a concert. While teams of four attempt to destroy a series of defenses and dodge incoming fire using conventional game controllers, a cellist -- using a real cello, no less -- tries to hold them at bay by simply playing various sequences on the classical instrument.

Slow notes, for instance, bring on missiles, while a flurry of notes activate machine guns. Need a flamethrower? Play a dissonant chord. And when a special, pre-defined melody is played, half of the screen is destroyed, though sharp-eared players will be able to get out of the blast zone if they hear the melody starting.

Joost van Dongen, whose previous work includes stints on games like Awesomenauts and De blob, is the creator of the game and the antagonist in the concert events. The game, he says, was deliberately designed so that musicians wouldn't have to simply play along with a song from a catalog. Instead, they're encouraged to freestyle, letting them adapt to the strategies used by their four controller-wielding opponents.

"The number of possibilities with 'slow high notes' is literally infinite," says van Dongen on his blog. "This is a crucial aspect to the game, since it allows the cellist to improvise in many different ways, keeping each match of Cello Fortress fresh and varied. Having so much freedom also allows an experienced cellist to play fluently from one attack to the other."

van Dongen is currently touring Europe with live concerts of the game, but says he's still tweaking it to make it more fun. Among the planned changes are improved graphics, which are fairly rudimentary right now, and add more attacks for cellists. Here’s hoping Yo Yo Ma is the final boss.

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