The science fiction reality
Ocarina 2: app of the day
What is it?
The sequel to Ocarina, a flute-like music app released in 2008 by developer Smule. This new version helps you blow proper songs by the likes of Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Coldplay.
Its social features. A spinny globe lets you listen to other people playing the app around the world, and comment on their skills. If you're really confident, you can put your own playing out for such feedback.
iPhone - free
Playing Bad Romance on a virtual version of an ancient wind instrument while people on the other side of the world tell you you're rubbish? There's an app for that.
Ocarina 2 is the work of Smule, a US-based developer that has been making music apps since the early days of Apple's App Store - you might have played with its Magic Piano, MadPad, I Am T-Pain or Glee Karaoke apps.
The first Ocarina came out in November 2008 and involved blowing into your iPhone's microphone while placing your fingers on the touchscreen. The result: beautiful sounds based on an ancient flutey instrument called an ocarina - more recently made famous in Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time game.
Smule has just released Ocarina 2, and it's great fun, if a little awkward to get to grips with. It works the same way, as you blow into the mic to create sound, then tap on four glowing on-screen orbs to play different notes.
It takes a bit of getting used to - specifically the skill of holding the iPhone with four fingers free to tap, at the right angle to both blow into the mic and see what you're doing on the screen. I suspect a lot of people will give up at this first hurdle, which is a shame.
A Freestyle mode lets you tootle to your heart's content, but the meat of Ocarina 2 comes in its Play mode. Here, you'll find an array of famous songs to learn, from game themes (Tetris, Legend of Zelda) to traditional numbers (Greensleeves, Auld Lang Syne, Amazing Grace) and pop hits.
Pop hits? Yep, Justin Bieber's 'Baby', Lady Gaga's 'Bad Romance', Coldplay's 'Clocks' and so on. All of these can be downloaded in-app, with on-screen prompts teaching you how to play the notes.
There's a cost. Some tracks are classed as 'tunes', unlocked one at a time if you watch six advertising videos (a feature that doesn't seem to be working properly at the time of writing), or by paying £1.99 for a bundle of nine, £2.99 for 16 and £6.99 for 33.
The pop hits are classed as 'premium' though: you'll pay £1.99 for four unlocks here, £2.99 for seven and £6.99 for 15. 30-second previews let you listen to how they sound before deciding to buy.
Wrapped around this are social features in the app's World section. Similar to that in Magic Piano, it's a spinning globe that lets you tune in to other people playing songs, seeing where they are in the world. Tap 'Love' if they're good, or 'Next' if they're bringing out your inner Simon Cowell.
Naturally, other people will be listening in to your performances too. Facebook and Twitter sharing is also included, if you want to make sure friends hear your best efforts.
Ocarina 2 is imaginative and inventive, although Magic Piano may still provide the most accessible way into Smule's marvellous musical world.