In 2005, Harmonix changed the landscape of gaming by bringing rhythm games to the forefront of living rooms everywhere, filling closets with cheap plastic instruments, and making us all rock stars. Now, eight years later, the genre has gone bust-- but Rock Band Blitz might be the comeback tour rhythm fans are longing for. With it come ideas, both old and new, alongside a gargantuan collection of music.
The neon glow of Harmonix’s highway is iconic. Fans will be happy to see that not only has the highway returned in Rock Band Blitz, but it is wider than ever. The color-coded lanes are no longer tied to buttons on a plastic peripheral though. Instead they’re associated with instruments and are a visual treat to navigate. In tandem with the winding animations, navigating the highway is imperative to the gameplay, so the snap as you slide from lane to lane looks appropriately tight. Overdrive mode returns as visual kick in the pants and pulls the camera in tight as you race through each song. Thankfully, limiting the gameplay to only two buttons keeps Overdrive from inhibiting your ability to navigate.
Rock Band Blitz is only a few buttons, which makes the game infinitely more approachable, though difficulty still varies. Instead of selecting a difficulty, songs are ranked based on their difficulty, down to the instrument level. Users alternate tapping Left and A to the rhythm, while using L & R Triggers to glide between lanes, and X for Overdrive. That’s really all there is to it, but the challenge is being able to adjust your rhythm as you move to different instruments throughout the song. You can miss notes as much as you like, because the game is all about having the highest score and you will quickly learn that power-ups are the only way to get there.
Power-ups are broken up into three categories: Overdrive, Note, and Lane. Each will cost you some coin to use during a song, but the effects make all the difference. Take the Overdrive power up, Bandmate, for example. It will dump an AI into a lane to tap along with you, adding a layer of strategy for when to use said power-up, and in what lane. Note power-ups, like Fire, spread across lanes and Pinball has you playing Breakout mid-song. Lane power-ups will simply afford you double points, though Synchrony will have you gliding between lanes at the measure mark. Power-ups are the key to scoring points in Rock Band Blitz - and that’s what Rock Band Blitz is all about. Well, that and the music of course.
Rock Band Blitz itself comes with 25 new tracks - less than previous Rock Band games - but for only $15, that’s not too bad. The Rock Band network has over 3,000 songs just waiting to be added to your collection. However, while the content is there, it doesn’t feel accessible. There are times when the ads are causing the UI to load slowly or the network is struggling to keep up. As an alternative, you can export music from your classic Rock Band library. If you own any of the previous Rock Band titles, with the exception of Rock Band 3, their songs will be compatible with Blitz. The original Rock Band export is $5, the rest are $10 each, and track packs are free. A fairly small price to pay for some exclusive tunes.
With a huge list of songs and leaderboard support, Facebook integration helps get your friends on the bandwagon by openly challenging them, while the Score Battle mode gives you a chance to shame them in public and build up your level (Blitz Cred). Doing so unlocks more power-ups and coins. However, the biggest disappointment is the realization that someone has challenged you with a song you don’t have. It’s hard not to just dump a few dollars into RBN to uphold your honor. However, a feature I think some fans may miss is the quintessential “Rock Band Atmosphere” that can only come from a living room full of friends having a jam session. While, for years, previous Rock Band titles were the party game, Blitz is a much more solitary experience. Multiplayer is limited to leaderboards and there is no co-op - something that a lot of people would consider a huge part of Rock Band.
Rock Band Blitz is clearly Harmonix understanding that plastic peripherals are a thing of the past but, much like the music they serve, rhythm games are eternal. I think Rock Band Blitz is perfect for hardcore fans and casual fans alike. With such a low price-point and wealth of content, little things like the lack of multiplayer or store UI being laggy shouldn’t discourage anyone from picking up this title. So get the band back together and challenge your friends to become the top Rock Band Blitzer in the world.
8 - Great: 8s are great games that have something holding it back from excellence, or some features aren't as polished. The game is still extremely worthy of playing, but it may not be the most impressive.
|ScrewAttack's News Director Sean Hinz worked in logistics for over four years before decided it was time to switch industries. After a couple years spent getting an MBA and freelancing, he finally found a home at ScrewAttack.com. As far as games go, Sean likes to play anything he can get his hands on, but especially enjoys third-person action RPGs. Is that really a genre?|
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