Traxxpad: Portable Studio is exactly what it says it is, it's a program that allows you to create your own music/beats on your PlayStation Portable. Before we get into talking about the game it's important that you understand that this is not game, Traxxpad is more like a scaled-down version of Fruity Loops or any of the other computer programs that allow you to make your own music. If you're going into Traxxpad expecting it to be the next Frequency or Amplitude then you need to stop right here, this program is only meant for those people who want to express themselves using music and phat beats.
The good news is that Traxxpad does just about everything you could want a program like this to do, it features over a thousand audio samples, offers voice/microphone support, allows you to mix and remix your songs, and then gives you the opportunity to convert your music into an MP3 or add it as your cell phone's ring tone. Needless to say the software is powerful, and just as long as you have the patience to see your song to the end then you can come up with some really great music.
Unfortunately this is also Traxxpad's biggest weakness; the program comes with a steep learning curve that will likely turn a lot of aspiring musicians off right from the get-go. This is the kind of title where it pays for you to read the instruction manual ... and chances are you're going to have to go back to it several times before you even start to get the hang of what you're supposed to do. If you can get past the learning curve you will find that this is a deep program full of potential.
Like all music making software what you get out of Traxxpad is equal to what you bring to the table. If you're not the kind of person that can think of hot beats then chances are you're not going to get the most out of this program. However, if you are more musically inclined then you're probably going to come up with some sweet sounding songs. It also depends on how much time you want to put into a particular track. If you really wanted to put your mind to it then you could probably develop a song in a short amount of time (an hour or so), but it's imperative that you continue to tweak, mix and remix the song until it's perfect. That's the fun of Traxxpad; it's all about taking your song from good to downright amazing.
Traxxpad gives you a few different modes to work with, each of which features a different interface that you'll have to learn and master. It's best to take it one step at a time, usually starting with the R.T.I.S.T. editor. In this mode you have the opportunity to place the beats either by going note-by-note or by letting the track loop and just laying down notes that sound good. From there you have the option to work with the MeLOD editor, which allows you to change the pitch, sustain and so forth of notes. Once you have the sequences figured out and finalized you can go into the S.T.A.C. editor and place them around where they need to go. This mode actually allows you to piece your song together, which is definitely the most fulfilling part of the experience.
Of course, that's just a quick overview of the various modes. In practice you'll find that there's a lot more depth to each of the modes than I can explain in this review. The truth is that I could spend entire pages talking about the inner workings of each and every one different modes, what you can do with them and how they are different from one another. But this is a PSP review, not a technical manual about Traxxpad. If you're the type of person that is interested in knowing more about the various modes and how they can affect your music, then chances are you're the type of person that should run out to the store and pick up this game ... er, music making program.
Needless to say the number of options you have in this game is staggering. Just when you start to feel like you've experienced all Traxxpad has to offer you notice something else that gives you even more options to play around with. Like expensive computer programs that do the same thing, Traxxpad is the kind of program that will take many hours before you even begin to see the true potential of something like this. While these types of applications can be easily found for the computer, the fact that it's portable means that you can take it wherever you go and start making music whenever inspiration hits. The amount of depth this program offers is definitely impressive; especially when you consider that this is a $40 PSP title.
Unfortunately there are times when it becomes apparent that this is a PSP title. In past reviews I've complained about Sony's portable not having enough buttons, but this problem has never been more obvious than when I'm struggling with Traxxpad's awkward control set-up. Expect to use every single button found on the PSP, including the "start" and "select" buttons. In fact, some buttons will need to be held down in order to perform a secondary function, which can be a real pain in the butt to learn. This awkward interface is even more apparent when you start toying around with in MeLOD mode. In MeLOD you are allowed to play with a keyboard, but in order to get a lot of the notes you are going to have to hold a directional button and then push one of the face buttons. This is confusing at first, and even after you've spent hours playing around in this mode you're still going to need a cheat sheet next to you to remember how to play each of the notes. I'm not sure what they could have done to solve this kind of problem, but it's definitely a frustrating control scheme that will take a lot of time to get used to.
Once you've fought with the controls and finalized your song it's time to decide what you're going to do with your masterpiece. Traxxpad actually gives you a few different options, including two that actually make a whole lot of sense. The most basic way of sending your music out is to share your songs with other PSP owners via the Ad Hoc WiFi mode. If you want to reach a larger audience then you might want to export the song to an MP3 and store it on your computer. And if that's not enough, why not turn your brand new beat into a cell phone ringtone. Silly? Perhaps. But it beats the heck out of listening to Fergalicious every time somebody calls you.
If you can get over Traxxpad's frustrating control scheme you'll find a lot of depth and value ... assuming that you're looking for a way to make real music on your PSP. If you're not musically inclined or don't have the patience to learn how to make music from scratch, then perhaps Traxxpad is not worth your time or money. But if you are one of those people who is aspiring to lay down some hot beats then you won't find a better program on the PSP, or any other system for that matter. Traxxpad is definitely not for everybody, but it does an excellent job for what it's trying to be.
Have you ever thought about making music on your video game console? Well that's exactly what you do with Traxxpad, the bizarre new game from Eidos Interactive. If you have a lot of patience and don't mind a steep learning curve then Traxxpad may just be worth checking out.