Playing With My Weiner

Gaming at the mercy of miniature daschunds.

Theremin Hero FTW January 5, 2009

Filed under: Games,Other Folks,Rock Band — Gwyddia @ 5:56 pm
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Have you lost your voice singing in Rock Band? Can’t conceive of giving up the game until your throat feels better? Grab a theremin and go to town. Check out how this guy does.

 

Review: Guitar Hero World Tour October 27, 2008

This is not Rock Band.

 

Beat it!

Beat it!

I need to get that out of the way right now. I also need to state that we are playing this game on Xbox 360 with the Rock Band 2 drums and microphone, but the Les Paul Guitar Hero III guitar.  I have to admit that I went into GHWT thinking of it as a Rock Band 2 expansion pack. I quickly learned how wrong I was.

 

The art style of GHWT is animated and over-the-top, and each instrument and type of play has a series of hysterical cutscenes that just scream “rock”. The characters, both the pre-made type and the ones you can create are the colorful distorted, exaggerated “Judy Nails” types you’ve come to expect from GH. The venues, both real and imaginary, are fully rendered and complete down to the broken chairs and half-eaten wings. Maybe the venues are a little TOO realistic, as they are festooned with in-game advertising for real world brands.  I understand having Sabian cymbals and Marshall amps, but do I need to be told which fried chicken to eat while playing?

Screw my hair, check out my knobs!

Screw my hair, check out my knobs!

 

The controls and setup are so-so. Despite promises to the contrary, the Rock Band drums do not map perfectly onto the GHWT songs. Drummers are encouraged to hit silver-topped notes harder for more points, but the velocity sensitivity is variable at best. It is nearly impossible to deploy Star Power, as the regular set requires you to hit the Green and Orange cymbals together, and those two notes don’t usually show up together in the drum track. The tutorial is not available for drummers that aren’t using the GH set, either. We aren’t using the GHWT set because having tried them both at PAX, we found the Rock Band 2 set to be crisper, quieter, and more responsive, with a good spring in the pedal. The GHWT set we played was mushier, louder, less accurate, and just all around not as good as the Rock Band 2 set, though it was an improvement over the original Rock Band drum set.

 

Vocals are a nightmare. There is no “Tambourine Hero” fill section during long instrumental solos. Instead vocalists have fills which seem to be randomly inserted passages of swirls in which you can earn multiples of 9 points by saying “la” over and over and over.  Vocals Star Power can only be deployed through hitting your microphone or holding your controller the whole time and hitting a button. It lasts for about five seconds, and then you have to go back to hitting buttons like a rat hoping for a food pellet. There is no musical staff guiding your pitch adjustments, but rather one line for you to follow the whole time through. The accuracy level and pickup are just plain bad. I scored about 15% lower in GHWT on songs that I have completed perfectly on Hard in Rock Band 2.

 

All of that being said, if you’ve enjoyed Guitar Hero before, keep on keeping on. You’ll probably enjoy this game. The Guitar and Bass work just fine. If you are new to GH, or are trying it after Rock Band, keep in mind that GH is significantly different, and don’t count on the manual or the early tracks to help you find your way. The manual is eight pages long and barely goes farther than “turn the game on and play”. If you are eligible to play a tutorial, good luck finding it. You have to search around through stacks of menus to find the tutorials or anything else in the game.

 

I was disappointed in Guitar Hero World Tour. I guess I expected more after I saw the excellent track list. I did enjoy the cameos from rock icons such as Jimi Hendrix and Zack Wylde, and the game is fun to watch in general, but I’d almost rather watch than play, and that’s a bad sign. Maybe they’ll get it right on their inevitable next time out, but on their initial foray into the full band genre Activision has put too much focus on being different for difference’s sake and not enough on streamlining and gameplay.

 

For being a mediocre comparitor to Rock Band 2 when it could have been so much more, Guitar Hero World Tour earns 3 Weiners out of 5

 

Review: Rock Band 2 September 16, 2008

Rock Band is back (as if it ever left). The new disc offers about 100 new songs, including Bob Dylan’s first foray into videogames and Harmonix in-house band Speck’s dork ode “Conventional Lover”. For folks who have been rocking out since last year, its more like a huge song pack than a sequel, and that’s just fine.

 

It’s getting better all the time.  The visuals are a bit shinier, the band members a bit more customizable, and the interface a little more streamlined. For example, you can switch between instruments with the same character without having to do a restart. For folks who want to just rock out and have fun, there is a “no fail” option.  For those who complain that the nerf bat was used too liberally in Rock Band 2, there are now options to speed up tracks or take out the visual lines entirely.

 

The updated instruments are the real coup here. The new drumset is a sea change from the day of release set I’ve been rocking since last year. It is solid where the original was flimsy, generally quiet where the original was loud, and provides a better, more satisfying play experience. I’ve been excited about these skins since we tried them at PAX, and I am glad to have them home.

 

The new hotness.

The new hotness.

The guitar is likewise excellent. Gone is the “mushy” strum bar of Rock Band 1. Here to stay is a great feel and wireless rock. An improved accelerometer picks up Overdrive cues nearly without fail. This is a great plastic instrument.

 

Faux woody

Faux woody

The microphone is much the same as the original. It does the job, and picks up as well as it should. Harmonix still hasn’t implemented phoneme recognition, though, so you can recite the Declaration of Independence and still get 100% on the Beastie Boys’ “So Whatcha Want”.

 

All in all, though, Rock Band 2 is a lot of fun. And, because the Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero World Tour instruments are now interoperable with their respective games, you can pick and choose whose sets you like best and enjoy the loads of content on the discs and beyond.

 

Now if you will excuse me, Gwyddia, The Stig, and the rest of Pathological Monsters! are playing for our airplane in a few minutes.

 

 

 

For listening to their fans and cleaning up what needed to be cleaned up, plus providing a ton of excellent songs to enjoy (500 by Christmas, they say), I am giving Rock Band 2 five weiners out of five.