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Beaterator impressions: Making music on the PSP

We recently got a chance to check out a new music-making title for the Sony PSP from Rockstar Games (best known as the creators of Grand Theft Auto), called Beaterator.

We recently got a chance to check out a new music-making title for the Sony PSP from Rockstar Games (best known as the creators of Grand Theft Auto), called Beaterator. It's not really a game at all, but instead a boiled-down music production suite, combining premade samples and loops with a reasonably robust sequencer, and most importantly, the ability to import your own sounds.

Beaterator is loosely based on a music-mixing Flash app of the same name that Rockstar has hosted on its Web site since 2005.

We're very familiar with PC and Mac applications such as ProTools, Reason, and Logic, used in professional music making, and Beaterator comes off as surprisingly deep and full-featured, even if navigating the sub-menus and pecking out notes and chords with the PSP's controls is probably not the ideal way to create music.

The entire package is "hosted" by an animated version of hip-hop producer Timbaland, who contributed many of the included samples. He leads new users through a basic tutorial, using several premade songs constructed from his own loops, which include drum beats, keyboard pads, bass lines, and more.

A pick-up-and-play Live Play mode lets you just pick samples and play with them, swapping in new ones on the fly--like Rock Band or Guitar Hero, it lets you play around with songs without having to know much about actually making music.

Much more involved are the Studio and Song Crafter modes, which let you edit existing samples, create new ones from scratch (as you would with a MIDI sequencer), and create multitrack arrangements for your own songs.

From our brief time with the package, we were impressed with its depth--from drum machines to programmable synths to an onscreen keyboard for packing out notes and chords, it most reminded us of the popular PC music-making suite called Reason.

The package will be available on September 29 for $39.99, through the PlayStation Network store and on UMD disc, and Rockstar has recently said that versions of both GTA and Beaterator are coming to the iPhone at some point as well.