When I first heard of LEGO Rock Band, my eye-roll was so intense it was nearly audible – it seemed like the ultimate cash in. However, after jamming through the game’s Story mode as the Wanton Daisies (my LEGO rock group), I’m happy to say this game’s got legs despite its paired down nature. The LEGO rockers are about as cute and comical as it gets, and there is a wide variety of family-friendly tunes (without being overtly kid-friendly) that is a blast to play. Instead of being a haphazard amalgam of seemingly disparate licenses, LEGO Rock Band feels like a natural off-shoot of the franchise. Unfortunately, the Wii version of this game suffers in a few key areas that ends up spoiling the otherwise delightful package.
First of all, the LEGO characters are awesome. Not only are they charming, but they make the game quite rewarding. As with any LEGO-based video game put out by Tt Games, there are hundreds and even thousands of LEGO body parts and accoutrements to collect and utilize. The game constantly rewards you for good play by giving you studs which can be exchanged at the Rock Shop for new hairstyles, torsos and legs, new instrument pieces, and even decorations for your Rock Den. The item collecting formula can be quite addictive for anyone (it’s great fun to change up your little dudes before a new venue), but it is tailor-made for youngsters. For adults, the inclusion of rock icons in LEGO form is brilliant – Queen, David Bowie, even Iggy Pop are all perfectly recreated. Again, these two IPs were masterfully brought together into one package.
Beyond the extreme cuteness factor that LEGO has brought to the party, the gameplay is Rock Band through and through. Up to four members can get together and virtually jam on drums, bass, guitar, and vocals. As you can imagine, the Rock Band controls are very precise and the calibration tool is available if things seem out of step. Note tracks are essentially the same as in the mainline series, but the note bars have been changed out in favor of little LEGO bricks. Nevertheless, hitting high notes, blasting through screeching solos, and getting nasty with drum fills is still part and parcel of the action. Of course, due to the family-friendly nature of the title, the game can be made extremely easy to play. A new difficulty – Super Easy – has been added to the mix along with an interesting drum modifier. Super Easy lets aspiring video game musicians to play along simply by strumming (no fret buttons), banging (any drum head), or singing (no pitch distinction) in time to the notes. For adult players that are getting pretty handy with the drums but are also getting tired out by the bass pedal, a modifier can be selected in the Extras tab on the main menu that automatically works the bass drum for you.
Despite the kid- and casual-friendly touches, the game is chocked full of quality tunes that will appeal to a large variety of people. Artists include Queen, Foo Fighters, Kaiser Chiefs, The All-American Rejects, Pink, Blink 182, Tom Petty, and many more. In all there are 45 songs, but, unlike the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, none of them can be exported to Rock Band 2. Consequently, all the DLC music you’ve purchased is inaccessible when the LEGO Rock Band disc is in. While paying extra seemed a bit usurious for the big consoles, paying the same price of $49.99 for the Wii version is practically a rip off. Thankfully, as with all Rock Band offerings, the note tracks are nicely synced to the songs, meaning advanced players will still be challenged by the set list regardless of the intended audience.
Naturally, the game has a Free Play and Training option. In Free Play, all your pre-installed Rock Band content is available to play through as well as the game’s new content. Training mode is identical to that found in the other titles, letting you practice songs till you attain perfection. The new addition to LEGO Rock Band is that of Story. The game’s Story mode follows the wacky exploits of your created band. Unlike Rock Band and Rock Band 2, the tale of a meteoric rise to rock stardom is done through LEGO characters – which means you’ll be treated to lots of goofy antics and giggle-inducing cutscenes throughout. At anytime you can change up the look and composition of your band members with acquired loot. Most of the gameplay in Story is similar to that of the original games, but instead of failing out, your band will simply lose points for poor execution. However, activating LEGO Recovery Mode (fueled by Overdrive energy) will allow the band to get lost points back by hitting as many Recovery Gems that appear as possible.
In addition to standard performances, you’ll also be tested by Rock Power Challenges in Story. These skill checks get the entire band involved, taking turns playing their instrument-specific tracks one at a time or occasionally with others. Because this is a challenge, you can actually fail these tests. Otherwise, Rock Power Challenges are essentially the same as standard performances even though certain band members get highlighted by the challenges. As such, I didn’t find them to be particularly intriguing, but it does make for a bit more of a heightened/tense experience if for no other reason than it is possible to fail.
The game looks and sounds quite a bit worse on Wii than it does for the other consoles. While one would expect there to be a graphical drop off I terms of resolution and aliasing, the Wii version is so fuzzy, unpolished, and full of jaggies it seems like alpha code. As stated, the LEGO characters are really adorable though, especially the rock icons. Also, the cutscenes are enjoyable and well animated – the LEGO character’s expressive grunts somehow communicate the story without using words. If things were sharpened up across the board, you’d notice that all the menus are identical to those found in Rock Band 2 – but they are made less mature-looking and more cartoon-like. For example, the main menu’s Asian tiger has been redrawn to look round and fun rather than imposing, and the octopus tentacles that limn the border have LEGO-nub suction cups. Sound quality fairs better but is still significantly worse on Wii. The same nice selection of tunes is available, but the fidelity is not quite where it needs to be. It’s not any worse than what is found in other Wii Rock Band offerings, however. So if you’re used to the Wii’s sound quality, you may not have an issue.
Though LEGO Rock Band is solely a local single-player and cooperative multiplayer experience, the lack of online or competitive features don’t seem to be a detriment anyway. The reasons to get this game are because you have young ones around that want to get into some Rock Band action, or because you want to augment your song list by an additional 45 tracks (though, you won’t be able to play the rest of your collection with this game, and you won’t be able to export these tracks). Whether you’re young or old, the LEGO characters and cute vibe will likely appeal to your sensibilities. All in all, LEGO Rock Band is a quality game that will get the whole family jamming together, but if you own one of the other systems, I would suggest getting a version other than Wii’s.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.5 Graphics
The LEGO characters and rock icons are a hoot, but the fuzzy, jagged look of the game seems very unpolished. 4.5 Control
This game is as easy to control as any Rock Band predecessor. 3.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The set list is varied and of similar fidelity to other Wii outings. The tunes should appeal to a rather large swath of players, but you won’t be able to play other content and you can’t export this music. 3.5
Free Play and Story are the only real modes here. While I really liked collecting all the LEGO goodies along the way, the game does feel like a somewhat paired down version of Rock Band.
3.2 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.