Before I made my foray into the video game industry, I was actually a music major in college. Us musicians would take this class called Solfegé, where they would teach us how to hear and reproduce different intervals (the spaces between notes) with our voices, and much, much more. It got really hard at times, but interval recognition is the ear-training groundwork that every musician has to lay.
Knobswitch, the tiny PSN game from Tiredtrope Games is exactly that — interval training, and they really did a good job making a game out of it.
With most games, audio isn’t the most important aspect, but for Knobswitch, it was very important that they had a good set of sounds to work with. While the PlayStation Vita’s speakers aren’t that great, using headphones to play Knobswitch allows for the audio to really shine. The notes sound clear but stylized to sound like an 8-bit soundboard, and the correct/incorrect sounds of the knob are equally satisfying and devastating. While those are really the only sounds in the game, save for the cute little intro riff, it was important that everything sounded good in a game that was all about differentiating sounds. The musician in me thinks that the octave is a bit out of tune, but maybe I’ve been away from a keyboard for too long. Otherwise, the sound design is great, and really gives Knobswitch a lot of character.
The user interface is a clever one, especially when paired with the name. A knob that rotates around using the left stick points to twelve options placed around the knob in a clockwise order. Each option is a type of interval, ranging from a minor second (smallest) to an octave (largest – well, sort of). You can hit the left shoulder button to hear the low note, and the right shoulder button to listen to the high note. You can do this as many times as you want, separately or together, until you make your decision. Start gives you a simple pause menu, and that’s really it. You’ll get a score card at the end of the game that tells you how you did on each level, but that is the entirety of the game. It’s $1.99, so I wasn’t expecting much, but it’s also not a bad thing. The simplicity gives it an intriguing charm that kept me coming back to test my skills.
Even the color scheme puts a little grin on my face. It has a pastel look to it, and the unnecessary changing of the knob’s colors each game is just fun. It’s a small detail, but it gives a lot of character to a game that could be totally drab.
When it comes to trophies, it’s $1.99-ness is apparent. You get a bronze trophy for finishing each level by getting ten in a row correct and a bronze for getting a right answer without listening to either of the notes. A silver trophy is awarded for having a perfect level, and a gold trophy is obtained by having a perfect game and getting a perfect score of 100,000. While there is no platinum and only one silver and one gold, Knobswitch is a fun game to 100%. The struggle to get that perfect game earns you that gold trophy, and you feel good when you finally get it.
It’s also worth noting that this game has a sort of history with Kinda Funny co-founders Greg Miller and Colin Moriarty, who had a running joke on their old podcast (Podcast Beyond,) where Miller made up a name for a game using things he saw around the room (a doorknob, and a light switch). This came after making fun of some of the ridiculous names for games that were coming soon, and Tiredtrope apparently went ahead and made the fabled game a reality.
While it is a tiny game with simple sounds and controls, the untrained ear could have a hard time discerning between pitches, which can be discouraging. Nevertheless, I would still recommend Knobswitch to any Vita owner. It’s cheap, it’s well made, and although you can max out the score, getting there could be a journey for the untrained ear. With its clever name, clever idea, and simple execution, Knobswitch is a nice little game to play when you need a score-chaser.