Review: Rock Band Blitz
GAME NAME: Rock Band Blitz
PLATFORM(S): PSN, XBLA
GENRE(S): Rhythm Game
RELEASE DATE(S): August 28
As a huge fan of the Rock Band series (I was initially hooked by Guitar Hero, but my karaoke leanings sawed me in favor of Rock Band as time progressed), I've waited on the release of Rock Band Blitz with intense fervor. Initial announcements had me excited at the prospects of a new Frequency or Amplitude, and the slow release of streamed demos looked colorful and frantic...
And then I got my hands on it, and was immediately entranced. Much of my initial expectations were met - it's extremely colorful, and insanely hectic, providing a welcome new take on the Rock Band franchise.
For those unaware, Rock Band traditionally has players participating in a "band" (of sorts), strumming away at a plastic guitar peripheral, banging away at plastic drums, singing into a microphone - primarily for fun, sure, but there's dexterity and skill involved. Rock Band Blitz, on the other hand, does away with the peripherals, and provides a similar rhythm mechanic by way of a standard control pad.
There are still multiple lanes to play--drum, bass, guitar, vocal, and occasionally keyboard--but players are no longer restricted to just one... and this is the hard part to explain. In brief (I hope) - by successfully hitting notes, players can level up an instrument (up to a cap of four levels - the level represents a score modifier), and higher scores are achieved by achieving high levels across all instruments. Occasionally, a checkpoint will pass by, potentially increasing the level cap by an additional 3 levels, depending on how successful the player was in leveling up each instrument. What this means is - you will be frantically changing from lane to lane in order to successfully complete a song, and you can't simply stick to the easiest option. That said - you can't fail, so this is more of a high score chaser than anything else.
Completing a level supplies the player with coins and Blitz Cred - the former allows the purchase of bonus power ups (such as the Bandmate power up, which provides a computer-controlled player to play through a selected instrument for a limited time), while the latter unlocks additional power ups. A simple mechanic, but one that works well - the power ups make the core game far more enjoyable.
In addition to this core game, purchase of Rock Band Blitz includes a download of 25 songs. These form the main game in Rock Band Blitz, but the bonus is that they can also be used as downloadable tracks in Rock Band 3. Essentially this means the purchase of Rock Band Blitz is two-fold... If you are a Rock Band fan, that is. Of course, your idea of what constitutes a great song likely differs from mine, so it's hard to judge it's worth. It's an eclectic mix, so there's bound to be a few songs that ring your bell.
While Rock Band Blitz was a welcome surprise in that it tries something very different, and while it is INSANELY frantic at times (seriously, this game requires concentration), the appeal grew tired for me over time. Yes, hitting a streak and entering Blitz Mode (which speeds things up considerably) does provide a bit of a rush, and yes, the simple mechanics are fun; it's just not the same as playing with a guitar controller, or actually singing along with the tunes... Beyond that, though, it also seems tweaked to give the player the impression they are better than they are - I'm VERY certain I wasn't greatly accurate, and yet I occasionally pulled off some impressive solos... While it did feel good to get through those sections, overall I felt a little cheap - and the problem is that I don't really know if I was accurate or not. I just have a sneaky suspicion that I wasn't...
Multiplayer isn't an option - it's a high-score chaser after all, and this means that the title relies on leader boards to build competitive spirit. Thankfully, the title allows players to challenge anyone on the leader board, and not just friends (let's face it, not all of your friends will get this game), so there is some impetus for repeat play, but it just wasn't enough for me. Even if many of my friends did own this one, I'm not sure I would be compelled to compete. I have heard that this works across platforms, but was not able to confirm this prior to publication of this review.
However... for a game that encourages you to beat your friend's high scores, the actual mechanics behind ACHIEVING a high score is unclear. I understand the score modifier, I understand the power ups, but on completion of a level, I found myself with 90%+ accuracy, but still a fairly mediocre score... What gives? I guess without a real impetus to make me WANT to discover the intricacies of Rock Band Blitz, I will never end up doing it...
Still, given the price (1200 Microsoft points, or AU$17.95 on PSN), I'd have to say it's a good buy for Rock Band fans - boost your RB3 track list by 25 songs, plus get an arcade title to play through your existing tracks. That said, only songs that exist on your hard drive can be played through in Rock Band Blitz, so if you only have Rock Band 3 and have never purchased additional tracks, you'll be stuck with only the 25 songs. That's not an issue for me, as I'm a bit of a Rock Band spendthrift, but a worthy warning to interested fans...