Rock On, Passengers!
Who thought Guitar Hero would be awkward on the DS? Raise hands! Ooops…you caught me! Luckily, things turned out better than expected, so I’m here to tell you all about it. Read on!
Guitar Hero: On Tour is the response to an indisputable claim – Guitar Hero games are becoming a huge social phenomenon, and people, young or old, can’t live without it! Otherwise, why would they host a Guitar Hero competition at the last MLS game I went to? Or why would my little four and six-year-old neighbors play the game like pros? People have found something they enjoy doing. They feel cool and important while playing the faux-guitar game. So, why not extend the fun and make a Guitar Hero To-Go?
After playing this game all weekend, I have to say I’m pleased with the results. On Tour hits the spot by mimicking the fun gameplay style we all know and love. The Guitar Grip included with the game is a sturdy plastic peripheral that’s inserted in the GBA cartridge slot and sits below your DS. It has four fret buttons instead of five, which should be okay for most Guitar Hero enthusiasts. A strap with some Velcro holds your hand in place, while your fingers line up perfectly on top of the fret buttons. Those with smaller hands may have slight difficulties placing the pinky finger over the blue key, but once you get adjusted, it shouldn’t be a problem anymore.
If you have an old DS instead of the DS Lite, don’t fear – Activision included a small attachment that retrofits the Guitar Grip so it can be used with the original DS handheld. Some of you will also be happy to know the game is lefties-friendly, which was one of the concerns some people had. You can even swap the color of the notes to match the way you’re holding the Guitar Grip. The game also includes a small guitar pick-shaped stylus. I found it a bit too short and slippery though, so I’m still using the standard stylus. Even though the $50 price tag of the package sounds a bit steep for a DS game, you’ll have a great time and a unique experience with Guitar Hero: On Tour. Everything’s ready to go right out of the box, and the only other thing you may need is a good pair of headphones so the music sounds right. The DS speakers are too weak to deliver an acceptable sound quality for the game, so a headset is definitely the way to go.
The main menu presents a few different choices. I recommend going with the tutorial first, so you can learn all the ins and outs of the portable version. There’s a brand new mode called Guitar Duels where you compete against the CPU. This mode is also available in Multiplayer, and is reminiscent of Boss Battles in G.H.III. I found this mode to be the biggest innovation in the DS version of the game. While playing, some notes have special icons shaped like a spike. When you hit them, you obtain a power-up object, which you can use against your opponent. Some will light their guitar on fire; others will make them have to sign a t-shirt, a notebook, or a purse; others speed up the gameplay for them, or slow it down for you; there’s also a power-up that cuts one of their guitar strings, forcing them to fix it before they can continue hitting the right notes. Of course, your opponent will be able to throw these things at you too, so be careful and train those reflexes! All these special items and more make the gameplay really fun, challenging, and competitive. Some may think it’s a gimmick, but most will think it’s a blast!
Of course, you can also stick to standard Guitar Hero gameplay. There are five different venues, and you can unlock an extra song in each of them. I counted a total of 25 songs when it was all said and done. It doesn’t seem like a very long list, but it’s fine considering you’ll just play this on-the-go. I was actually surprised by the song variety, since my biggest complaint about previous Guitar Hero games was the uniformity of the song list. However, things are different with Guitar Hero: On Tour, and perhaps this represents an step in the right direction for the Guitar Hero franchise. You’ll find songs of many different styles, from “All the Small Things” by Blink 182 to “Black Magic Woman” by Santana, including others like “This Love” by Maroon 5, “Rock & Roll All Nite” by KISS, “I Don’t Wanna Stop” by Ozzy Osbourne, “Breed” by Nirvana, “All Star” by Smash Mouth, “La Grange” by ZZ Top, and many more. Even the songs I don’t really like are very fun to play, so in this regard the developers did a great job. I’m sure new Guitar Hero games for DS will complete the song list with new and exciting music tracks.
Career mode allows you to keep track of your scores and find out your weak spot in each song, which you can practice individually for best results. You can also choose your favorite character and customize it a little by purchasing outfits at the Store. The guitars are also customizable, and some of them are hard to unlock! That’s why it’s important to try to improve your skill little by little and play in difficulties other than Medium and Easy. Hard and Expert are very challenging, but if you don’t mind playing till your hands are about to explode, all that extra guitar-shredding will pay off with new unlockables. If you’re worried about sharing the game with someone else in your household, worry no more! On Tour lets you save three different profiles, so everyone gets a chance to play.
The characters included in the game are not very interesting. Some, like Axel Steel, have appeared in previous games. Others are exclusive to this new installment, but they’re not very original. The 3D visuals in general lack detail. They’re a little disappointing when you compare them to other DS games we’ve seen lately. The venues (Subway, Rooftop, Parade, Greek Arena, and Battleship) are a bit tacky and simplistic for my liking. However, I liked the overall design of the game, including the menu interface, the guitar designs, and the few drawings and caricatures you’ll come across.
The game also plays fairly well, which is the most important part about it. Since we have no strum bar, you’ll have to strum by hitting the cords back and forth with the stylus on the touch screen. It’s a good way to do it, though I got the feeling it wasn’t completely accurate. There are a few occasions during every song when the notes don’t register, even though they were hit correctly. It’s a bit frustrating, especially when you lose the multiplier or the chance to suck up some “Star Power” juice. Also, in order to activate “Star Power” you’ll have to yell “Rock On” at the microphone, or simply make a noise or blow at it. It’d be funny to be playing while on the plane and have to yell, so blowing will work best for everyone, even if you end up looking like a goofball anyway. I also have to point out sometimes the “Star Power” goes off by itself if you’re in the middle of a crowd and there’s noise in the background. This didn’t bother me too much, but it may bother those who are trying to obtain perfect scores.
I’m going to give this game 4.2 out of 5 because it’s great overall. It’s awesome to be able to play Guitar Hero wherever you are, the song list is nice and varied (though too short), and the gameplay is almost perfect. The only downsides are you may get some serious tendinitis in your wrist if you play for too long, and the game feels like you’re playing Guitar Hero rather than an actual guitar, which is the biggest attraction for the console counterparts.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.7 Graphics
The menu interface and drawings on the splash screens are neat, but the stages, characters, and animations are missing the “wow” factor. 3.7 Control
The Guitar Hero Grip feels natural at first, but it’s not very ergonomic (playing in small doses is recommended). The touch screen controls will never replace the strum bar, but they’re okay. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
On Tour features a small song list, but the choices are varied and fun to play. Even when using headphones the sound quality is not great, but it’s good enough to have a great time. 4.6
Guitar Hero lovers will have loads of fun playing this game on the go. Duel battles are incredibly amusing, especially against friends rather than the CPU.
4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.