If you've been paying attention to our burgeoning mobile coverage, you can't have missed talk of Arranger, an iOS game by musician Arman Bohn from a few months ago that recently got an updated iPad version. (That's the one I've been playing: it works really well on iPad.)
Arranger is a retro-themed musical RPG. I've been playing it off and on for the last few weeks, and, yup: It's delightful.
The setup is as follows: you play a character (a little yellow guy) who is a magical musician. In fact, you're not just any musician: you're an arranger. Given the way that arrangements have been in the news lately with the whole Glee/Jonathan Coulton fiasco, it's nice to see the pursuit get cast in a more positive light.
Arranger works more or less like any other adventure game, at least on the surface. You explore the overworld, take on sidequests, and defeat bosses. The combat system involves putting together musical arrangements based on instruments you've collected, then traveling into a boss's brain to hit its pleasure centers with sweet music. Your attacks are enhanced by the combinations you've created. It really is a game about arrangement, then—cool enough on its own, and safe to say, any game that lets me drop a saxophone melody into the middle of a boss battle is A-OK by me.
Things open up significantly beyond the main arc of the story—there are a ton of side activities and minigames, each one with its own multi-tiered progression. They're all pretty basic game-types, but they're fun, and are helped along (like much of Arranger) by the gleefully weird aesthetic and killer soundtrack.
Arranger does have some annoyances, most notably the fact that the controls don't work all that well. It gives you the option of using an on-screen directional pad or touch controls, and while I found the touch controls to be a lot easier to use, neither option is anything much. Fortunately, the iPad version goes a long way toward alleviating the problem, and it's much less noticeable than on the iPhone's smaller screen.
With all of that in mind, it's tough not to get behind Arranger, especially considering the game costs all of a dollar. It's a delightful oddity, a game made with a rare level of creativity, wonderfully strange art, and an outstanding soundtrack. In a world where composers and performers get all the glory, it's nice to see the arranger get his due. And in a world so full of the same copy/pasted iOS games, it's nice to see something so beautifully bizarre.