|System: PS3, Xbox 360*|
|Release: August 29, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Josh Wirtanen
Rock Band Blitz is an odd beast.
On the one hand, it asks you to forget a lot of what you know about Rock Band: plastic instruments with colorful buttons, taking on the role of a single band member as a part of a larger rock group, shredding to the rhythm without worrying about all that strategy nonsense, etc. On the other hand, though, this is still very much Rock Band. It's a rhythm game where you rock out to an impressive collection of hit music, scoring points for hitting notes that are perpetually flying toward you at remarkable speeds.
Wait. Let me simplify it a bit: Rock Band Blitz is Rock Band minus the peripherals, where instead of playing as a single member of the band with a focus on one instrument, you constantly swap between instruments mid-song.
How does that even work? Well, you have a moving stream of notes that you must tap at the right time to the rhythm of whatever rock song you're playing along to. You do this by either tapping a button on the controller or flicking one of the control sticks (there are actually several various control setups in the options menu.) However, getting a perfect score isn't your goal here. In fact, getting a perfect score is literally impossible.
You see, there are multiple note streams—one representing each of five instruments—and you only control one note stream at a time. However, you can freely switch between note streams as you see fit. Is there a flaming guitar solo you want to nail in order to rack up a super high score? Go for it. Would you rather hammer out the basic rhythm for the drums? You can do that instead.
There's a twist, though. By hitting notes, you can "level up" each instrument. Doing so gives it a score multiplier. If you can level up all of your instruments before the next "checkpoint," the level cap for your instruments increases. This means that in order to maximize your score, you'll need to spend a bit of time with each instrument.
And that means there's a bit more strategy involved than what you're used to in a Rock Band game. You see, sometimes it's better to play the harder instrument parts, since there are more notes involved thus earning you a higher base score. However, sometimes it makes more sense to play through an easy part instead in order to boost your multiplier. A high base score is fairly meaningless if your multipliers stay low. So you'll be doing a cost/benefit analysis here: Which instruments you play and when can drastically alter your score, even if you never miss a note.
To further complicate things, there are several power-ups that you can unlock. For example, there's a Pinball power-up that allows you to score extra points by keeping a pinball on the course à la Pong. There's a Bandmate power-up that will play a second stream of notes once you activate it, so you can be playing two instruments at once. There's a Super Drums power-up for drum enthusiasts that increases the points earned while nailing those drum parts. And that's just three of the sixteen power-ups available in the game.
You select three power-ups before the song starts, though you must purchase them with the points you've earned from getting high scores. Once again, you have to balance the cost of the power-ups against how many points (or coins) you think you can earn by playing a song. It's very easy to spend more coins than you earn, so you'll watch your coin supply continuously deplete rather than increase as you play more songs unless you're careful with your spending.
It all comes together quite well, making for an interesting and unexpected twist on the classic Rock Band formula. However, keeping a rhythm on a traditional controller rather than a plastic instrument takes some getting used to. It's certainly not as natural as, say, playing a plastic guitar if you actually know how to play a real guitar. And that's admittedly going to turn some people off. I mean, isn't most the fun of a Rock Band game derived from the fact that it lets you live out your rock star dreams with an actual instrument (as fake as that instrument may be)?
Still, it's interesting to play a more strategic game of Rock Band. If you can adjust to tapping out rhythms with the flip of a stick or the press of a button, Blitz is quite enjoyable.