A New Type Of Rock Band
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.
Oh, and did I mention that it comes with a library of 25 songs, all of which can be imported into Rock Band 3? Because it does. In fact, even if you think playing a rhythm game with a traditional controller is dumb, you can purchase the tracks as sort of a booster pack for Rock Band 3. And 25 songs for $15 isn’t a bad price. It’s not a bad lineup of songs, either, representing a fairly wide variety of sub-genres. You’ll play everything from “Always” by Blink 182 to “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John to “The Wicker Man” by Iron Maiden. Sure, I can be a bit of a music Nazi, and a lot of the songs simply weren’t for me. But I have to admit, I did find a bunch that I actually enjoyed.
Blitz has a very nice Rock Band aesthetic, with colorful, detailed menus and some decent texturing on the backgrounds you zoom through while you’re rocking out. However, it’s not going to be winning any graphical awards. In fact, the animation on the crowd of people that cheers for you at the end of each song seems pretty cheap. But really, what does the visual aesthetic even matter here? Rock Band is blowing your mind with rock, not blowing your mind with graphical fidelity.
Ultimately, Rock Band Blitz is definitely worth spending some time with. Doubly so if you’re a Rock Band enthusiast looking to expand your collection of playable songs. Owners of Rock Band 3 will definitely get their money’s worth; for everyone else, there’s a very enjoyable rhythm game here. Either way, it’s $15 well spent.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.2 Graphics
A great aesthetic, with some shoddy animations here and there. 3.0 Control
The controls will make or break this title. They work, but a lot of players are going to long for their plastic guitars. 4.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Rock Band Blitz nails the sound FX and gives you a great selection of songs to boot. 4.0 Play Value
25 songs right off the bat, plus access to over 1,000 add-on songs from Rock Band’s illustrious past (for a fee). It’s a pretty substantial package for the price. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|