Rock Band Blitz Review
Game: Rock Band Blitz
Available on: Xbox LIVE Arcade, PlayStation Network (Reviewed on Xbox LIVE Arcade)
Everyone has plastic instruments gathering dust in their living rooms. The Rock Bands and Guitar Heroes of this world had a short, yet illustrious life. They were the hotness for a couple of years, but as time went on, interest waned to the point where Guitar Hero is on a sabbatical and the buzz just isn’t there anymore.
But now, Harmonix have decided to release Rock Band Blitz, a sort of “Controller Hero”, if you will. It doesn’t necessarily revolutionise rhythm based games, but it does breath new life into the series. It’s more reminiscent of a Frequency or Amplitude than the previous games in the franchise and is all the better for it.
To elaborate on the “Controller Hero” moniker, the player has control of all the tracks on the multicoloured highway through their regular PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 controller. Depending on the song you’re playing, you’ll have some combination of Drums, Bass, Guitars, Vocals and Keyboards to thrash. Each instrument has note prompts on the left and the right side of that particular track which are played with a flick of the corresponding analog stick or a combination of D-pad and A/X button. The idea isn’t to play all of the notes on each track, because that would be nearly impossible as you can only play one instrument at any given time. The idea instead is to level up all of the tracks and reap the rewards of switching between a complex guitar solo and meandering bass run with a simple bumper/shoulder click.
That is one change that may take some Rock Band aficionados time to understand. As the player is the entire band and not just the mute bassist or loudmouth singer, notes will go flying past on the musical highway that you naturally can’t play, but the skill is in deciding which track is worth your time at any given point. This makes the game instantly replayable as you may regret focusing on guitars in a particular song, when you could’ve scored more by concentrating your efforts on drums. Although, even when trying to pay attention to one individual track, it’s also imperative you share your talents across the entire band.
Levelling up is paramount in Rock Band Blitz. By consistently playing on each track, you’ll increase the overall level cap at the many checkpoints in each song. At each checkpoint, the player can boost the level cap by up to 3x multiplier, depending on how much each instrument is levelled up after each checkpoint. If you have all tracks at 4x, but your drum track is at 1x, the level cap will remain at 1x. This gives the player incentive to spread their time across all of the available instruments, in order to get those high scores and valuable stars.
In the game, you’ll earn a certain amount of Coins and Blitz Cred after each song, in accordance with how well you performed. Prior to playing a song, you can choose a combination of up to three power-ups that you want to use, but it’s important to remember that each power-up will cost you coins. Blitz Cred is the key to opening up new power-ups for you to choose in the three categories: Overdrive power-ups, Note power-ups, Track power-ups. Some of these perks are pretty standard, earning double points on Bass notes played, but others are more inventive, such as Bandmate which, once deployed, will automatically play notes on a track, allowing the player to focus their attention elsewhere. Playing around with different groupings of power-ups is endlessly fun and some of them are satisfyingly outlandish.
To use these power-ups, you do need coins. Other than acing Living Colour’s Cult of Personality, you can gather some cash on Facebook. By linking your Facebook account up to Rock Band World, you’ll be able to compete in challenges where the end result can be a considerable amount of coin. Some of these goals are pretty easy, such as getting 12 stars on songs from a certain genre. Some of these tasks can be a little harder like the Scavenger Hunt goals, which require some more thought. It certainly isn’t a requirement, but linking up to Rock Band World on Facebook will earn the player some valuable gold and also give motivation to try and complete interesting goals; either in a group or solo. Additionally, Score Wars is another fun supplement to the package where you can challenge friends to better your attempt at nailing that Kelly Clarkson song.
Yeah, I said Kelly Clarkson. The tracklist for Rock Band Blitz is nothing short of inspired. With a lower number of songs than the retail games (25 in total), their choices are varied enough to keep everyone on side. From emo bands like My Chemical Romance and All-American Rejects, to metal stalwarts like Quiet Riot and Iron Maiden, persons of all taste are catered for. The 25 songs here can also be used as DLC for Rock Band 3, so even if the game isn’t to your tastes, it’s a great add-on for your already extensive list of Rock Band tracks. To prolong the period of playtime with Blitz, your current Rock Band library (minus Beatles Rock Band and Rock Band 3, as they can’t be exported to your library) has been altered to use in this downloadable effort for no extra cost.
VERDICT: Whilst the plastic instrument phase seems to have died somewhat, Rock Band Blitz has injected some life into the old dog. Harmonix has taken a tired genre and revitalised it by incorporating mechanics that are similar to those seen in their own games, pre-Rock Band. With a decent amount of songs in the package and all of the songs you no doubt already own, the potential to be playing this game for months is evident for all to see.
Things like Score Wars with friends, random Score Wars in the game and the leaderboards, there is always the allure to get more stars. Add to this the fact that players will be trying different paths in songs and changing up their power-up combos, and Rock Band Blitz has a ton to offer. If you’re underwhelmed with where music games have gone, this could bring you back into the fold. If you’ve never played a music rhythm game, then welcome, my friend.