Here We Go Again
To say the marketplace is over-saturated with music games at this point would be to state the obvious. Sure, we’ve had five “Hero” games come out so far this year, in addition to three Rock Band titles and countless karaoke games, but the fact is, even though it all seems like overkill, there is a proven market for these games, and eager fans are willing to pick them up time and time again.
This is where Band Hero comes in. Although identical in form and function to Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero is a rhythm game with a different focus: tweens. Plenty of games recently have been targeted towards the tween market, including Boogie Superstar and the Disney Sing It! series. But thus far, the Guitar Hero series has been more focused on the metal side of the spectrum, appealing mainly to hardcore gamers and rockers. So the Guitar Hero series doesn’t seem like its losing its edge (How would you feel about a Guitar Hero: Pop game?), Band Hero was created to give young pop fans the same experience as Guitar Hero 5, without any of the hard-edged rock.
The soundtrack in Band Hero definitely sounds like it was ripped from an 8th grade junior high school dance, which is perfect for the game’s intended audience. You’ll be able to play through plenty of pop-tastic songs including Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” Aly and AJ’s “Like Woah” and Hilary Duff’s “So Yesterday”. There are also plenty of golden oldies in the mix, which will appeal to parents who want to play the game with their kids. Songs like Marvin Gaye’s “Heard it Through the Grapevine” Devo’s “Whip it” and the Iconic “YMCA” by The Villiage People will certainly keep older players tapping their toes. The only issue I have with Band Hero’s setlist is that it falls short of the Guitar Hero 5 tracklist by about 20 songs, which is a bit depressing since the game retails for the same price as Guitar Hero 5.
Aside from the family-friendly soundtrack, another big difference between Guitar Hero and Band Hero is the overall style of the game. While Guitar Hero has traditionally had plenty of extreme colors and rock-themed arenas, Band Hero is basically the polar opposite. Bright purples and blues dominate stage setups, and built-in characters definitely conform to teenage archetypes.
In addition, there are also some teen idol characters that can be unlocked. Celebrities like Taylor Swift, Gwen Stefani, and Adam Levine (of Maroon 5 fame) can all be unlocked and used on any song. So if you know a little girl who has an obsession with Taylor Swift, Band Hero will definitely be a no-brainer purchase, as she will be able to use Ms. Swift in any song once she is unlocked.
Even the story mode has somewhat of a teeny-bopper spin on it. Instead of playing dingy clubs with skull and bones aesthetics, you will be able to take your band through an American Idol-style journey. You start off playing malls and clubs like “The Fizzy Pop” and work your way up to big time gigs and competitions. Although the theme of “small band makes it big” is certainly a staple in all “Hero” games (as well as Rock Band games) this one is unique in that it lets you form a band with any instrument combination you want. This includes a four-singer band, drum duo, or trio of bassists. Any combination you can think of can be done in career mode. This is a great option, and is great for groups with people who like the same instruments.
As far as other features go, Band Hero has everything that Guitar Hero 5 has. There is support for online rocking for up to eight players worldwide, and the matchmaking system works well most of the time (I had a hard time finding anyone playing on “medium”, but the other difficulty settings yielded some results). The game also included the Guitar Hero creation mode that was debuted in Guitar Hero: World Tour and perfected in Guitar Hero 5. The addition of the creation mode is sort of curious considering the game’s demographic, but if you just can’t wait to bust out your own tunes, the creation mode, as well as all the demo songs, tracks, and tutorials from Guitar Hero 5 are all there in Band Hero.
Plenty of aspects of Band Hero are carbon copied from Guitar Hero 5, and frankly, I feel like this is Band Hero’s biggest weakness. Even gamers picking up Band Hero as their first rhythm title should be treated to a different experience, besides the different color palette, pop songs, and band compilation options. Some new modes specific to the game, for example, or maybe an improved vocal mode would have been nice, giving rhythm game fans more of a reason to pick this title up in lieu of just downloading tracks from the Guitar Hero marketplace.
But if you do end up purchasing both Guitar Hero 5 and Band Hero, you’ll be happy to know that both games are compatible with one another, and most of the songs from Guitar Hero 5 can be imported into Band Hero (and vice versa), which is great if you are trying to keep all your tunes in one place.
Although Band Hero sounds like a new IP, it isn’t. Band hero is exactly the same as Guitar Hero 5. If this bothers you, well then Band Hero is not your game. But if you don’t mind the same formula with the exact same features, then there is definitely some fun to be had with Band Hero. With the new focus on the tween market, Band Hero seems to be carving a niche within a niche. It may sound like an impossibility, but if everything goes according to plan, Band Hero will be the rocking method of choice for young kids (and parents too) everywhere. If you are tired of the old Guitar Hero formula, then don’t bother with Band Hero. But if you are new to the rhythm genre, or have a love for pop music, then Band Hero should suit your needs just fine.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
Everything from the elaborate stage setups to the on-screen characters looks great. 4.0 Control
Just pick up your instrument of choice and play. That’s all there is to it! 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The mix of pop, oldies, and soft rock is one that both kids and parents can get into. There’s definitely no hard-edged metal here. 3.5 Play Value
If you’ve already played Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero is the exact same thing, just with brighter lights and an easier setting. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.