I’ve gone though differing thoughts over this game since I heard about it. I was excited from the get-go and when I played the demo, it made me want to play the full version a lot, but then when I got the full game today and started playing, I just felt a little bit dissappointed. I’m not sure why.
But then after a while playing it I remembered why I loved the demo. The game is the same rock band formula that if you’ve played the full rock band game, then you’ll probably love like me. This game basically keeps the gameplay but ditches the instruments, and that’s not a bad thing for this PSP game. What I like about it is for me while it does lose the authenticity of having an instrument in your hand, what you gain is the ability to play harder difficulties and be satisfied in that way because of the way the controls are in this. Because you don’t strum or hammer-on at all, it’s entirely about timing your button taps which makes it much easier to simply get into the groove of the song and do really well, while being thoroughly satisfied.
However, the switching between tracks, while well done and fun most of the time, can also be a total hinderance. when you play on higher difficulties and a tiny dip in concentration can cause you to miss the next few notes. Plus rarely it is possible to switch to the one past the one you need to be on, also causing misses, Switching tracks is a nod to Harmonix’s original music games, frequency and amplitude where you used a traditional controller to hit notes on multiple tracks.
The gameplay is a mashup of those games and rock band / guitar hero, HMX’s recent games. While I do like the idea of playing all the instruments and switching around, I think the game would have been even better if they had added the choice to play the career mode as one person playing one instrument, or whatever one you felt like at the time. If they did that, they could also have added multiplayer, local or even online. That would have been truly a full rock band experience.
While it may sound silly to be a vocalist and just be tapping buttons, it really doesn’t matter because playing as one person and being with a group of other people would have made the game absolutely amazing. Plus, it would have made the whole DLC thing more appealing. If I could buy a song and play it either with friends or online it would make it worth paying for the songs. Right now you can only play them in career mode or in band survival mode which I’m not too keen on, and warmup mode, which is great. It allows you to play as any instrument you want and there is no penalty for not switching during the song so you can try every instrument though the entirety of each track. But this really should have been in the career mode as an option rather than hidden away in the extras menu.
Overall, if you want a very good, solid music game for a handheld devide then this is it. Sure, it would have been nice to have the ability to play individual instruments, the DLC is probably overpriced considering how limited you are in how you can use it, and a lot of the songs are currently in rock band 2 with I think most if not all of the others coming as DLC. Oh and it should really have had online leaderboards. I don’t know why they didn’t include something that central to rock band. I mean one reason why it’s so fun to go back to the console version is to keep gaining fans and move up the leaderboard, plus set good scores on individual songs.
But the game is still very good and has incredible polish and presentation. Sometimes it’s hard to believe they crammed the full Rock Band 2 experience into the PSP. The menus look stunning. The characters and stages look decent. The guitars look kinda bad sometimes but that’s ok.
As far as competition goes, this game is in my opinion quite a lot better than the guitar hero DS games. While that game is fun, the sequals are basically DLC for this game, and I’d rather just pay for the songs I want rather than being given a load of stuff I don’t care about, and have to switch cartriges every time I want to play something else.
Even though guitar hero on tour does feel more like playing guitar, this game feels more fun and much more comfortable to play. Hand cramps are very common with on tour, I’ve had them every time I pick it up and practically everyone else has too. However, Activision are apparently working on a PSP guitar hero so that will probably end up being very similar to this game. I hope so anyway. If they go with a weird peripheral for the PSP I’ll be giving it a miss.
We’ll see how that guitar hero game turns out. It’s got to offer something much better than the console versions to make me interested but we’lll see. In the meantime, and most likely after that game comes out, Rock Band Unplugged is a worthy purchase for Rock Band fans and PSP owners who want to take the band on the road or just something to play on the bus on on any car or other journey. Or just play it in bed, whatever.