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Aug 29, 2008

Review: Rock Band for the Nintendo Wii

Rock Band
MTV Games, EA Games, Harmonix Music
Available for the Playstation 3, Playstation 2, Nintendo Wii & Xbox 360

Last week I talked about my first experience with the Guitar Hero series, so this week I thought I’d follow up with the other popular music game taking the gaming world by storm, Rock Band. I’ve been holding off on buying this franchise because I couldn’t justify spending $169.99 on a videogame, but when I got the chance to get this game without forking out an arm and leg, I couldn’t resist.

Rock Band, for those of you living under a rock, is a videogame that comes with a fake guitar controller; a fake drum set controller and a microphone which all can be used to rock out to your favourite tunes. Players must follow a series of coloured coded bars with their instruments to recreate the music. The cool thing is you really do feel like you’re playing an instrument especially with the drum set.

While Rock Band for the Playstation 2, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 have been out on the market for a few months now, my Nintendo Wii version just joined the party recently and unfortunately doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that its brother versions do. Though priced the same, the Wii version doesn’t include any online play, character customization or any downloadable content. You can buy an expansion game to add more songs to your track list, but the game really could have done with some downloadable tracks instead.

Missing content aside, the game does have a long list of sweet tracks to choose from with artists like Weezer, Garbage, Nirvana, Kiss, etc. and you can play with up to 3 players straight out of the box, 4 if you buy another guitar to play bass. This makes for a great party or family game which will attract all ages and skill levels. The single player game allows you to play from all four instruments through quick play or career mode.

The guitar controller is a lot stiffer than the guitar hero controller I have which made it really hard to hit the notes perfectly. After practicing for a while, I found strumming hard was the only way to get a good response out of the controller. So in other words, this new technique killed my hand and I was forced to move on to the drums.

The drum set controller is setup much like a real drum set with 4 pads, a kick pedal and two real drum sticks. To work them, you hit the colour drum pad to match with the colour note on the TV screen and while this in theory seems easy, you have to think about how hard playing real drums are and apply that to this. Some people might be better at the drums than others, but I’m not one of them. Plus the drums are extremely loud and you tend to hear the clacking of the drum sticks on the pads rather than the beat of the drums on the game’s soundtrack, which really sucks. Felt pads for the drum pads can help with the noise though.

Singing in the game isn’t any different than singing in Singstar or American Idol; as long as you aren’t tone deaf than you can’t really screw up the song. The neat part about the singing though is that you can buy a Rock Band microphone stand or use a real one to play guitar and sing at the same time. Multi-tasking for the win! But if that doesn’t work for you, then just pawn the microphone off on your woman or your talented male friend.

If you actually pull your head up out of the note track for a minute or two, you’ll actually notice that Rock Band sports a rock band playing in the background during the game play. A fuzzy looking, rock impersonation of the band you might be trying to play at that specific moment. While this is neat, I really didn’t pay much attention to it as I was too busy glued out the notes rolling down my music bar. Audio is pretty damn good for the Nintendo Wii and even the microphone sounded decent coming through my $300 sound system.

Considering that the gaming market is struggle to find games that everyone in the family can play and enjoy together, especially in a large group, I think Rock Band is a great game for anyone to own on any console. However it’s hard to justify buying the Wii version at the same price as the PS3 or Xbox 360, when it’s missing some key components like online play and downloadable content. Still I know the Wii version will fly off the shelves either way and I highly recommend this series on any system.

Rating 8 out of 10
Buy it!

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