Rock Band Review (iPhone/Touch)October 19, 2009
Let it be known far and wide. I freaking love Rock Band. A simple game with a core that allows nearly infinite play time and unlimited amount of interaction very new songs every week. Harmonix out did themselves when they released the Original Rock Band and Rock Band 2. With over 500 songs available for download. There is more spent on Rock Band then any other DLC content game on any system. And before the Guitar hero franchise was sold to Activision, it was a leader in innovation and addictive as all hell. Harmonix, earlier this year, also released Rock Band: Unplugged for the PSP, removing all plastic instruments And boiled down the game play to the essentials. But upping the overall difficulty by requiring players to maintain all 4 tracks.
To say the least. I was looking forward to Rock Band for the iPhone. Like possibly using the microphone to do the vocals! Customizing my band as Devo, Hoping using the songs I already have on my phone as songs to play in the game! (That last one was far fetched, but completely do-able as shown by the original, defunct, Tap Tap game.)
I imagined so much more than was actually delivered.
The game play is pretty straight forward and mimics the consoles pretty well. You select a song, your instrument, and your difficulty. And that’s where the game goes downhill. When you start your World Tour, you’ll notice only one city being available. To unlock the rest. You play 3 tracks in the first city. This will unlock a "Mystery Song" and the next city. You do this over and over until you unlock the last city and Mystery Song. There are only 5 cities. No "special events" no setlists, no bonuses, no money. Just fans and stars. Neither are truly needed. You’ll need more Stars to unlock cities and the mystery song. But with only 5 cities that, basically, can’t be played in any other order. Stars are arbitruary. They could have tossed the idea of Stars and just made it so finishing all the sings would unlock the next city. Because, that’s basically how it is anyways. And Fans?.. U don’t know what the point of them are at all. The first thing you will notice when the playing actually begins, is you will not be tapping on the note as it goes passed. There are "buttons" you press that will hit the passing note just above your finger. I’m not a fan at all about this choice and can only imagine they choice this way of playing to keep it from being too much like TAP TAP Revenge. But the thing is, Tap Tap got it right. Tapping on the actual note to trigger it feels way better than tapping a button to hit the note above your finger. Triggering Overdrive is accomplished by tilting the device upward. This works "alright". A quick shake works too. So far. I haven’t found a game that allows for a comfortable "power" usage like this. Whether it’s tilting, shaking, or hitting a lever (Guitar Tour). None feels quite right.
Another issues comes up with all the limitations that, aren’t necessarily "applied", but the complete lack of options not given. The lack of options fills the entire game. You won’t be changing the look of your equipment, your character, band mates. You can’t make setlists, your downloaded sings won’t show up in the extremely short World Tour, you can’t calibrate or change play hands either. Yes, it matters. I’m left handed. And while I font play left handed guitar. I do play left handed drums. In all honesty, everything feels like "drums" in the game. So, I would love to change handedness. I also play Rock Band at a very tight calibration. I like hitting the fret as SOON as the sound is playing. This game doesn’t do that. There is a very noticeable latency. If I hit the button as soon ad I hear would hear the sound. More often than not the fret was uncomfortably past the strike zone. Often to the point that it would register as a miss. The ability to calibrate the game to my liking would have greatly improved my play experience. Since I can’t. The game feels sloppy and unresponsive.
Speaking of unresponsive. I swear there is a bug in the 3Gs that nobody talks about. I have played Guitar Tour, TAP TAP Revenge 2, 2.5, and 3 and now this game. Every single game has a huge issue, but only on the 3Gs. I did not have this issue in my 3G. Anytime a double sustained note came along. I would only be able to hit it about 10% of the time. This was only on sustained double notes. Single sustained notes where fine, double notes where fine. But once I pressed and held, it simply wouldn’t register. I could tap these notes and be fine. But I, obviously, wasn’t going to get the continued scoring. But at least I wasn’t going to lose my combo. Again. This issue is in EVERY RHYTHM GAME I HAVE PLAYED on the 3Gs. It’s aggravating to say the least. Sure, I shouldn’t knock Rock Band for something that seems inherently wrong with the 3Gs. But, really, was there no play testing on this?
Rock Band wouldn’t be Rock Band without there music store. So, it’s good to see that here in this game. Prices are pretty gold too. You don’t buy individual sings. You buy 2 packs. They bundle 2 sings together and so far, ther
e only 99 cents per pack. That’s a pretty good deal. As of this review. They have about 8 packs available. Including a free Freezepop pack. I love Freezepop!
Graphically, the game looks pretty good. Very clean and smooth. There is nearly no 3D rendering here. The only amount you’ll see is when you first go into World Tour, and when your selecting your instrument and difficulty. After that, it’s all animated. Even the fret board. It looks good though. Clean lines, fluid animation. Your characters that typically rock out just above the fret board are replaced with a looping animation of generic scenes. A guy banging his head, guy drumming, guitarist plucking, the crowd moving about… Rinse repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It doesn’t look terrible, you’ll be too busy dealing with the notes to notice. And it isn’t distracting at all. It’s also understandable why they wouldn’t go all out on this as the game is already a hefty 180 Meg download. Which makes a download on the go a pretty long wait.
The menu presentation is nearly identical to that of Rock Band 2. Which looks great and is easy to navigate. While the game looks clean and good and everything, I have to take issue with something. Again, dealing with the 3Gs. The game ran fine for me. There where a couple choppy spots, which, I can’t imagine being any better on the 2g or 3g. But, the 3Gs has been out for a few months now. And developers gave known longer that it was coming. So… Why didn’t this game take advantage of the 3Gs’s dedicated 3D processor. This could have been a good demonstration of what a 3Gs game should look like. I feel they should have worked on 2 separate versions. One for 2g,3g, and touch devices. While an Enhanced version was released for 3Gs and the newest Touch. Just a thought.
I guess this can go in the graphics section, but, I would have really liked to see some integration with the iPhone Camera. being able to snap a picture of yourself, or your favorite shirt to use in game would have been awesome. I know that’s a tall order, but really, if you think about it. They created a game that requires a whole set of plastic instruments to play the game… it’s not THAT far fetched to may get some more interaction out of the device.
Well, if the audio sucked in a music fame… Then, all he’ll would break lose right? Like.. Jesus would come back. Hear the bad, or perceived as bad audio and cry and leave without taking anyone to heaven.. Right? Yeah sure. Lets put things into perspective. Good quality audio files take up A LOT of space. So. Don’t expect FLACC quality ok? With that said. I can say that, without headphones. The game sound
good. It’s obviously compressed. Obviously could be better. But it’s not unlistenable by any means. What else is there to say? Everything sounds much like the console counterpart. Menus, music, missing notes and such. All sounds about the same. One thing I miss though. Is the audience. In the consoles. If you stay at a high approval rate (green bar to the left) The audience begins singing along and yelling loudly. Nine if that is present here. While not a game breaker. It’s a detail that I missed.
Well… I’m a little sad now. I was really hoping for something great. Especially from Harmonix. In fact, I can honestly say I don’t believe Harmonix did this game. It doesn’t feel like there work at all. Harmonix has innovative so many times that, this Rock Band themed clone feels more like an out if house developer trying to mimic what Harmonix does. Rather than innovate again.
I really wish they hadn’t turned the Vocal track into a sideways tap board. The iPhone has a microphone and it should have been taken advantage of. For the Touch devices, only then should it have been a tap section. The Career mode should have been WAY more robust, importing downloaded songs, setlists, never ending! There is an infinite amount of possibilities! A built in camera? We could be playing as ourselves! Make our own shirts and such. GPS could allow the game to let us play own town! Play sings from our iPod collection. With everything they did do.. I can only think of 2 more they should have done instead.
Which brings me to the price of the game. It’s 10bucks. To me. That is too much. Many might say "but the full deal on consoles is 150! And then I would slap them for saying something so stupid. This is an iPhone app with a lot of competition already. TAP TAP is the standard. It’s that simple. With a huge selection of free songs. Themed songs. 2 player "split screen" and better feeling game play all around. And it’s free. Even if you decide on the new v3 for only 99 cents though. You’re still paying 9 dollars less. The price of Rock Band simply doesn’t get you much at all in my opinion. You’re paying for the name. Which is really sad. And something I would flame Activision for with there unless "Hero" games that just aren’t necessary at ALL. I have to say Im really disappointed with both EA and Harmonix on this shallow, shell and a shadow of what makes Rock Band great.