|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Vicarious Visions||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: RedOctane / Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 22, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
May 30, 2008 - At some point in almost everyone's life, they dream of rocking out on a guitar in front of thousands of adoring fans. When Guitar Hero came out, it finally gave many gamers the feeling that they were doing just that. Sure, the guitar was made of plastic and all of the adoring fans were virtual, but this is still the closest most of us will ever come to fulfilling this dream.
The guitar peripheral had a lot to do with selling this illusion, giving players a somewhat realistic axe with which to ape their favorite rock stars. So how can a portable game without a guitar peripheral hope to satisfy fans of the Guitar Hero series? Thankfully, the answer is a very simple one: great gameplay.
To have great gameplay you really need good controls. While you will not have a full-sized guitar peripheral to play with, the Guitar Grip peripheral included with every copy of On Tour is an excellent portable equivalent. The Guitar Grip fits perfectly into the GBA cartridge slot on the bottom of the DS, with your hand being strapped to its back for stability and to allow you to reach the fret buttons. Because of its compact size you will only be given four fret buttons this time around, instead of the standard five that we are all used to. Fortunately, the game feels completely natural with its four fingers to four fret buttons approach. Having only four fret buttons may lead you to believe that this game will be much easier to play, but rest assured, the expert level of this game will require just as much skill, dexterity, and quick reflexes to complete as its console brothers.
With nothing on the Guitar Grip to strum, you will instead get to use the DS's touch screen and a guitar pick stylus. The touch screen controls are actually surprisingly responsive, registering strums accurately no matter in which direction you choose to move the stylus. It works so well in fact that it allows for strumming forward and backwards, making it possible to hit quick strings of notes faster than is possible with any of the previous Guitar Hero guitar peripherals. The lack of a whammy bar may also seem like a problem, but you can actually just slide the stylus back and forth on the screen to produce the same effect. This works rather well and feels very intuitive. Since there is no tilt sensing incorporated in the DS or in the Guitar Grip, star power can instead be activated by pressing any of the DS's face buttons or simply shouting "rock on" into the microphone. It is next to impossible to use the face buttons for this, leaving you with only one option. Fortunately, if you are easily embarrassed and don't want to scream at your DS, blowing into the microphone will work just as well and will greatly reduce the amount of odd looks you are likely to receive while playing in public.
The single-player campaign is quite a bit of fun, but the game's Guitar Duel mode is the real highlight of this title. This is basically the battle mode from Guitar Hero III, but it plays to the DS's strengths so well that it is honestly much more fun. When you earn power-ups to mess with your opponent, they are all quite odd and effective. Some of the possible trip-ups include setting your opponent's guitar on fire and forcing them to blow it out using the microphone; making a T-shirt, purse, etc. appear on screen that will need to be signed to continue strumming; switching your opponent's screens to create confusion; and even cutting certain strings on your opponents guitar that will need restrung using the stylus. These duels are incredibly fun specifically because of all of those well thought out and unique attacks and defenses at your disposal. My only complaint about the Guitar Duel mode is you can't play it over Wi-Fi, only over a local wireless connection. Online play would have really been a great option and is sorely missed.
The music in On Tour is noticeably compressed to fit onto a DS cart but still sounds great. Even with the extremely limited space, there will be over 25 songs and over 100 minutes of music to play through. There is a decent variety of music from most eras and genres of music. Having bands ranging anywhere from the Doobie Brothers to No Doubt gives players a good diversity of songs to choose from. Because of this, you are basically guaranteed that no matter your age or musical tastes you will most likely be able to find something you enjoy playing. About 85 percent of the songs included will be master tracks, adding a nice level of authenticity to the varied song list.
Vicarious Visions has done what was previously thought to be impossible. They have successfully condensed a wonderful console-only guitar playing franchise onto the technologically weakest system still available on the market and without a guitar. Not only did they get it to work, but it actually feels incredibly natural and is every bit as fun to play as its console counterparts. The Guitar Grip attachment is an amazingly well-realized and constructed peripheral that makes all of the included great gameplay elements work perfectly. I have to say that before I got a chance to play On Tour, I was perhaps one of the game's biggest doubters. Fortunately, after just a few hours of DS strumming, I am happy to admit that if given a chance, Guitar Hero: On Tour will make a believer out of just about anyone.
CCC Game Journalist