|System: Wii, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Fall Line Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Disney Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 25, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Let's face it; at this point anyone with even a basic knowledge of the rhythm game genre is going to recognize the two big-name franchises over the competition. Since the start of the latest wave of the rhythm game explosion, kids have been clamoring for Guitar Hero and Rock Band like they were the last games on earth. Much to the dismay of parents around the country, the massive bundles of fake plastic instruments required to play either franchise come at a hefty price. Enter Ultimate Band - Disney's attempt to pander to ailing parents seeking a cheaper music game alternative.
Ultimate Band won't fool teens out of their aspirations of becoming guitar-wielding rock gods, but it might prove to be a useful tool for some parents to get their younger kids to quit whining over why they can't have a living room full of instrument peripherals. Admittedly, the idea of playing a full-band rhythm game without having to shell out for over a hundred dollars worth of extra junk is an enticing one. All you need to enjoy the game is a Wii Remote and Nunchuk for each player, and that alone makes it an intriguing sell.
In the game's story mode, you'll form a youthful band that embarks on a rock-n-roll quest to win a glorified battle of the bands. Before your musical journey begins, you'll have an opportunity to hand-pick the look of each person in the group. There are some cool options initially available for customizing each band member's appearance and attire, and new goodies are unlocked as you progress. From there, you'll head out to a series of gigs at a variety of different venues, unlocking new songs and places to play along the way.
Keeping in line with Disney's family-friendly vibe, the tone of the game's overall presentation, including fully animated cutscenes and dialogue, is generally upbeat and cheerful. Dialogue is smattered with youthful lingo, and the content is clearly aimed at kids. It's reminiscent of a Saturday morning cartoon-like attempt at being hip. Younger players will eat this up, and parents won't have to worry about their kids being potentially exposed to offensive content. Hell, you can't even name your band inappropriately; Disney is watching.
The best way to describe gameplay is it closely resembles playing air guitar - an often humorous and surprisingly fun way to enjoy a rhythm game. Most of the time you'll be swinging, twisting, pointing, and shaking the Wii Remote and Nunchuk in time to on-screen rhythmic cues along to the music. Four instrumental styles utilize the Wii Remote and Nunchuk controls in different ways, offering distinctly unique play modes. You'll intuitively mimic strumming the guitar and bass, swinging drumsticks in the air, and executing dance moves and poses. It's highly likely most players will gravitate towards the guitar and drums, but playing as the vocalist (thankfully there's no singing involved) and the bassist also offer a good change in pace.
Three difficulty levels make the game easily playable by the youngest gamers yet provide a reasonable challenge for folks already familiar with the genre. That said, most of the game falls on the easier side. Lower difficulty settings simplify the entire process by subtracting buttons, so let's instead discuss how the game plays on hard mode. For the basic guitar controls, you'll strum with the Wii Remote while hitting four different combinations of the C and Z buttons on the Nunchuk to enter different notes that scroll right to left across the screen. Bass controls are similar, though you'll switch between six note options that rely on the Nunchuk being tilted to the left or right - a neat idea that doesn't work as well. Both offer subtle variations like poses, whammy note grabs, modifier moves, and special maneuvers.