PlayStation 3, Xbox Live Arcade
Review based on Xbox Live Arcade version
Release Date: August 29th, 2012
Rock Band Blitz is a digital marketplace title that puts the party-driven plastic instrument gameplay aside and has the player picking up the controller for some solo action. For the most part, they are rather simple. Left on the left analog stick or directional pad for the left notes, and right on the right analog stick or the a button (x for the PlayStation 3 version) for the right notes. Gone are the glitzy night clubs and ampitheater backgrounds, replaced by a gritty modern street view that finds the fret charts stretched through the town to your inevitable goal. Each channel is indicated towards the unique instrument thanks to a specific color, such as green for drums, red for bass, blue for vocals, gold for guitar, and orange for keyboards. This does make it easier to follow, but for someone having trouble with colors it can be a bit difficult as the background fills up from the multiplier and level caps, especially during a solo which makes the notes really hard to follow. Comparing from a lesser quality high definition television to a true 1080p one, the better the color depth and crispness of the picture you have, the easier it becomes to play this one, especially given the level cap and checkpoint markers that get in your way, as well as the increased speed of “Blitz” mode from hitting so many notes without screwing up that increases the speed and can make going up hills in the urban setting a little harder.
There are only two playable notes throughout, but it offers up some real difficulty at times that you wouldn’t expect, such as notes tight enough to one another you may need to put extra force from your body into pressing the proper control at the right times. Each channel of the fret chart represents an instrument, which is easily maneuvered between thanks to the left and right bumpers, a process that is really only painful in more complex songs or those with more notes to hit that sometimes cause you to switch and miss a note without even thinking, or pressing a bumper instead of the left or right button required for the incoming action in the same lane of the chart. However, some power-ups do work in your favor to clear additional notes without moving from lane to lane constantly, such as the Road Rage ability that sends a tire up the road to clear out the notes for a length determined by how much star power you acquire, as well as Bottle Rockets you can fire and ahead and knock out more notes and add extra points to your score required to get the highest scores possible.
This title is compatable with all the downloadable songs in the marketplace, as well as the previous entries in the series such as the first three numbered Rock Band games, Lego Rock Band, Rock Band: Green Day, and many others. Rarely does the game’s design end up not working with the additional non-Blitz designed checkpoint system. As you race towards the finish, you gain additional level combo points when you upgrade each channel to it’s level cap, usually four per checkpoint. Sometimes you won’t get enough notes in one section, but for the most part you should be able to max each row out without a problem. However, obtaining five and gold stars in this game is a little rougher to do, which is where the coins and cred feature come in. The more you play, and the better you are, you earn cred, which will unlock power-ups like Pinball Wizard, Fire Frets, as well as instrument specific bonus powers that are required to amplify your score and help you earn the five star or gold star rankings that are impossible to obtain without spending coins on at the menu before the song starts. This leads to an extra bit of trial and error to figure out which combinations work best for each song, having to take note of what instruments are difficult versus which are simpler, as well as being aware of the songs themselves so you don’t miss a small vocal or keyboard section limited to a few notes prior to a checkpoint.
As you can tell, this game is a much easier, and in many ways more casual music experience. However, there is some additional competition available. While Rock Band Blitz is a single player only title, the game itself does feature leaderboards that give you a reason to go back and get better at a song, which is standard for this game in the first place, and the more annoying Score Battle option. While not a bad concept at all, the frustration lies in the manner you challenge, which only seems to appear on the main sub-menu screen in one of the boxes with a random song the game selects, and not available at any other part of the game. This honestly becomes one of the major downfalls to the title, and one that really needs to be addressed some point down the line. There’s also the insanely long loading screens, especially at the main manu as it discovers your downloadable content and imported songs that seem to take much longer than the retail editions of this franchise. Its an odd issue considering these are downloaded to a memory device, a move that is meant to make those games on the store shelves load quicker, but not seem to work out in this instance. There’s also the competition tracker that doesn’t show people on the leaderboard or your friends, but made up people, such as “The Duke.” You also have the problem that if you play the game on-line, you lose all your scores in off-line gameplay, as if it is saving everything you do to the Rock Band servers instead of your hard drive or memory card. While not game breaking like concluding a song after a new track has been added to your library, leaving you stuck on the loading screen until you exit to the dashboard or restart the game in general, but it can definitely kill your urge to play if your internet is down, or periodically does go out.
Of course, the soundtrack to Rock Band Blitz has a decent variety to it. There are twenty five titles in all spanning various Rock, Emo, and Metal styles, most of which are genuinely fun to listen to, as well as play. “Spoonman” by Soundgarden offers up a nice difficulty that really is addictive, and “The Wicker Man” by Iron Maiden is a tough opponent, but any fan of Heavy Metal will immediately flock to this track, as well as “Bang Your Head (Metal Health)” by Quiet Riot. You’ll also find some material that is shocking to be presented, but actually a lot of fun to play, like “Jungle Boogie” by Kool & the Gang, as well as “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John. Even some of the mainstream radio friendly pop songs that appear, such as “Raise Your Glass” by Pink are easy to sit through with some tighter note patterns that lead to some surprisingly difficult areas, especially if you’re not too familiar with early music style games like this one. Of course, some songs just don’t transition well, and clearly are meant to feed the general popular demographic that would play this. “One Week” is simple enough, but can become rather irritating at times, “Always” representing the worst side of Blink 182 and a choice even casual to veteran fans will question appearing here, and “So Far Away” by Avenged Sevenfold will highlight the faults of the group a lot better thanks to the amplification of certain channels, especially the vocals. However, the latter of the three does make for one of the easiest experiences to help you get familiar with the controls outside the basic and advanced tutorials that are an option, but not a necessity to perform.
But, the real question is whether this title is more enjoyable with the controller than it is the actual plastic instruments, or the realistic ones introduced in Rock Band 3. Unfortunately, no, this title simply isn’t as fun, but it’s still insanely addicting to anyone who enjoys music, or the early PlayStation One era of music-based games. While the twenty five songs included aren’t all fantastic ones you will want to play time and time again, those with an extensive Rock Band library will definitely get the most out of it, being able to play some of their favorite songs and trying to become a literal one man band that walks out with a flawless performance once the instrument channels are tallied up for your cred score, which is something you can effectively brag about by synchronizing the game with your Facebook account to make all your milestones public and keep track of how well or worse off your friends, family, and/or acquaintances are doing, adding a little extra competition to the mix.
Of course, there are achievements (or trophies) with this game as well, and for the most part these are pretty simple and can up the replay value for everyone, though alienating completionists not too fond of the franchise up to this point. Some are just rather tedious, such as playing fifty songs from the same decade, as well as music style, and playing over three hundred unique tracks. Of course, many of these can be earned without even playing, as there is no fail feature, effectively removing the requirement to practice and get better and make crossing that finish line a more accomplishing experience. This is one of the things that really breaks the game down, but at the same time you can at least hear the whole song from start to finish despite how good you are at this game.
But, given it’s faults, Rock Band Blitz clearly is its own musical entity, and does a good job at being more of a casual title for fans of the series. The simple gameplay structure with tight notes makes for easy to frustrating fun that long time fans will enjoy, but not necessarily forsake their plastic instruments for. However, for those who couldn’t get into it due to that manner of controlling the action in the title now get a chance to not “feel silly” or put so much excessive work into it, allowing you to play from the comfort of your couch with the traditional controller your more comfortable with. The backwards and DLC compatability works out great for this game, though sometimes it makes earning the top score a lot more difficult when the check point system doesn’t work out one hundred percent with the length of some passages compared to others, and the lack of a simple-to-use challenge mode really becomes the most frustrating part of the title, having more of a last minute tacked on approach despite it being a corner stone for those who already love the music game genre of the recent console generations. This game does have the potential to attract new followers, and keep the veterans of the Rock Band franchise happy with a new gameplay model, making this an infectious title well worth throwing your spare cash towards.
01. Fall Out Boy: A Little Less Sixteen Candles
02. Blink-182: Always
03. Living Colour: Cult of Personality
04. Queen: Death on Two Legs
05. Shinedown: Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom)
06. Red Hot Chili Peppers: Give it Away
07. Elton John: I’m Still Standing
08. Rick Springfield: Jessie’s Girl
09. Kool & the Gang: Jungle Boogie
10. All-American Rejects: Kids in the Street
11. Quiet Riot: Bang Your Head (Metal Health)
12. Maroon 5: Moves Like Jagger
13. Great White: Once Bitten, Twice Shy
14. Barenaked Ladies: One Week
15. Foster the People: Pumped Up Kicks
16. P!nk: Raise Your Glass
17. Collective Soul: Shine
18. Tears for Fears: Shout
19. My Chemical Romance: Sing
20. Avenged Sevenfold: So Far Away
21. Soundgarden: Spoonman
22. Kelly Clarkson: Strong (What Doesn’t Kill You)
23. Foo Fighters: These Days
24. Hollywood Undead: We Are Young
25. Iron Maiden: Wicker Man
|Overall Score: 8.5/10
Digital review copy of this title provided by Harmonix.