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Band Mashups - first look

Even though we're drowning in Guitar Hero sequels and Rock Band peripherals, gamers just can't get enough of the rapidly expanding music genre. Wii gamers, on the other hand, only recently got in on the act with Guitar Hero III. But without downloadable tracks and Rock Band still to come, what're faux rockers to do? Well, we'd suggest checking out THQ's stealthily developed Band Mashups, a game that follows the "notes on a scrolling track" formula yet offers something neither Guitar Hero nor Rock Band can duplicate.

As the name implies, gameplay is all about mixing different styles of music together. You play as one type of band (rock, country, marching band, funk and latin) and face off against another. As with Guitar Hero versus matches, you try to play the same song better than the other guy, but depending on who's winning the match, the song will actually change to match that band's style. So, for example, if the country band is ahead, "Insane in the Membrane" will instantly convert to a rich, twangy version fit for Nashville. Or you might hear "Feel Good Inc." as performed by a mariachi band, complete with Spanish lyrics. There are 30 licensed songs in the game, each recorded in all five styles, including one new track from B-Real (you know, the guy from Cypress Hill).

Why Wii? Instead of using a plastic guitar, Band Mashups has you waving the remote left, right or down, scribbling on the track like a record scratcher or thrusting forward. We played several songs and had no trouble hitting nearly every note that came our way, so the motion controls work great. The scratching and jabbing motions really help break the "left, right, down" monotony of the typical arrow notes.

As with Guitar Hero III, Mashups has power-ups to fling at opposing players. Each band (with names like "Scariachi" and "Defcon-X") has its own trio of attacks that charge with each successful note. There's a generous variety of moves too, such as speeding up the other guy's track, reversing their controls and dropping false notes into the fray. These only lower the score though - there's no life bar to worry about, an intentional feature that makes sure everyone gets to finish the song and hear their band play.

Band Mashups is set to launch in April exclusively on Wii. There'll be a two-player versus mode, naturally, both sadly no Wi-Fi Connection support. This is a crowded genre, but we gotta say, there's a lot of fun to be had here. Hearing popular songs redone as marching band or country remixes is a novel idea, though time will tell if it stays interesting or fades away after a few tries. Given the sad state of third party Wii games, we're hoping for the former.

Feb 7, 2008

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