Thursday 25 June 2009

Video Game Reviews

Rock Band Unplugged
Electronic Arts
Review by Blake Harmer

Some achievements are hard to follow, like an athlete beating a world record, or being cleverer than Stephen Hawking. Rock Band Unplugged doesn't set its goals this high but it does have a lot to follow: How does someone take Rock Band, one of the most fun games you can have with friends playing plastic instruments, and convert it into a game onto a handheld format, which is purely a single player experience, whilst keeping the feel of the original game without making you look like a tit on the bus?

The way Harmonix and MTV Games have done this, is to be different.

Just like the original Rock Band, you create your rock band (comprised of four members: Bass, Drums, Vocals and Guitar) using customisable faces, haircuts, clothing, etc. and try to lead them to rock stardom by playing gigs. The aim of Rock Band: Unplugged is to create music by playing phrases of each part of the song to keep it going for a short period of time by matching notes using a combination of the directional buttons and face buttons of the PSP in time to the music. The instrument stops playing if you miss notes. When you've played one particular instrument you move on to the next instrument using the shoulder buttons and so on and the aim is to keep all instruments playing. Therefore this allows you to play all four instruments at once.

This aspect of the game works very well, it bypasses the fact that you aren't playing on plastic instruments and instead feels like you are just ensuring the band plays well, and feels excellent when you get all four instruments playing together at once. The game also introduces Rock Band's trademark overdrive mode (Star Power to Guitar Hero Fans who haven’t played the game) to allow that extra point scoring and also stops you from failing a song if you’re not playing well. The game also has an excellent track list and also boasts downloadable content, which will seriously boost the game's lifespan.

However, the game does have it’s flaws. Whilst it works on PSP, it is very close to Rock Band’s original inspiration which is Amplitude, a cult PS2 game which was released in the earlier days of the PS2’s life, and therefore makes the game feel dated. Also, a lot of the songs (although great), that come with the game have been used in the previous games and therefore feels a bit cheap if you have the other Rock Band games.

Graphics: Functional Graphics, good lighting effects and animation showing your band rocking out as you play. However, most of your time will be focusing on matching the onscreen prompts to truly notice this. - 7/10

Sound: Official licensed tracks sound great although doesn’t sound as awesome through the PSP’s speakers. This game is best played with headphones for the best effect. 9/10

Gameplay: The true Rock Band feeling of nailing notes and creating awesome music compressed onto a handheld format. It does show it’s age, and a lack of multi-player is obvious but still great fun nonetheless with a good career mode. 8/10

Lasting Appeal: A large selection of songs and extra downloadable content give Rock Band: Unplugged extra longevity. However, the game could have benefited from a possible Wireless Multiplayer mode. 7/10

Overall: This is a good game and a fun alternative to fans of the series, I would recommend the original games to newcomers however, as the game feels more like Rock Conductor than Rock Band as you still don’t get the true feeling that you are a rock god. However, this is the best rhythm-action game on PSP and a worthwhile purchase. 7/10

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