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The Axe: A look at Harmonix's first retail product - Destructoid

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I was in Cambridge a few weeks ago to meet with family. We ate at this noodle bar called Wagamama. It wasn't bad. But that's not the point of this blog entry.

Across the street, there was a record store called "Planet Records". It was a pretty cool place. I was looking through a rack of CDs when I came across this:



At first, it looked weird. I read the back, and then I looked at the front, seeing the Harmonix label. Unsuprising, since I was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where their headquarters is located.

I didn't get it that night because I wanted to do more research. Plus, if Ebay is any indicator, this thing isn't of much value (it was two bucks at this record store)

Turns out this was the first retail product that Harmonix put out, wayyyyy back in 1997.
Despite being all "revolutionary" and whatnot for the time, it was a commercial failure.

So, I asked my sister (who lives in the area) to pick it up for me next time she was around that area and give it to me the next time she saw me. I saw her tonight, and she gave it to me.

These are my impressions of "The Axe".


In "The Axe", you use your mouse (or a joystick) to play along to music.

You do so by clicking/holding the mouse buttons while moving it around a square playing field. The instrument will play automatically, in perfect sync to the music. As you go higher, the instrument you have selected will play faster, and as you go left to right, the pitch gets higher. You can also do stuff like creating short loops, holding down notes, and modifying how the instrument sounds.


You can play along to multiple types of music.


You can play using various instruments.


You can also choose the environments in which you play on, which are called the "IMVs", or "Interactive Music Videos". Depending on the one you select, it alters what you see on the screen as you move your mouse around as well as the background.


There are a few of these, like a generic mountain, a weird, blob-esque theme, and, my personal favorite, the "Clay Musicians".


In this IMV, depending on the instrument, you get different clay people playing instruments, etc.


This IMV is my favorite because of the little touches that are put into the clay animations.

For example, here are two things that happen if you hold a note for a while.





Overall, the "game" is a fun diversion, kind of limited, but still fun. It's interesting to see how far a small company like Harmonix has gone. They've gone from small CD-ROM diversions like "The Axe" to big budget smash-hits like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. But, they still remember their roots.

Remember the remix power-up from FreQuency and Amplitude? Now you know where Harmonix came up with that.


*Side note: The music tracks in the game are in a proprietary format, so I can't rip them from the game.

*Another side note:According to Google, there were multiple CDs of "The Axe" made, and they allowed new music tracks to play along to.
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