The box art for Guitar Rock Tour is deceptively informative. You see a dark-haired girl in a tie and miniskirt playing a guitar, and a nondescript dude banging on the drums. And guess what? You’ll be playing either drums or guitar in this rhythm action game, and that girl is the default character in Quick Play mode. Simple, no? Femophobes shouldn’t worry, though: there are five other characters you can use as well (they’re in career mode), and some of them are mens.
The question thus becomes, “are you a drummer or a guitarist”? That’s important too, because it’ll have a big impact on how you enjoy the game. Neither is instrument is perfect, but we did find one to be better realized than the other.
We’ll start with guitar. Have you played Guitar Hero on Tour for the DS, holding the DS sideways like a book and using the wild attachable buttons? Well, forget about that. Guitar Rock Tour keeps the DS horizontal as God intended, and draws you six buttons across the bottom screen to tap, swipe (for chords), or hold down with the stylus, depending upon what colored gems slide down the rails.
The top screen just shows your band playing, so you can ignore it. You may want to tap the d-pad left or right now and then, though – that’s how you trigger your bonus power (the usual score multiplier) or your special power: a wash of flame that streams up the note grid, burning away every note currently onscreen. It’s a nice way to get out of trouble if you’ve lost your place.
Overall, this setup works okay, if not great (though we’d prefer the note grid to be horizontal, with the buttons on the screen’s right edge. It would give us less real estate to jump around and keep our hand from blocking the view). The biggest problem is that it feels nothing like playing a guitar. This could be a puzzle game.
Drums are another story. The basic setup is the same: band on top screen, notes scrolling vertically down the bottom screen. But you aren’t limited to the stylus for control. The R button and all four face buttons trigger the kick drum, as does touching a picture of the kick drum onscreen. Similarly, the L button, all four directions on the d-pad and the picture of a snare drum all make a snare sound. And hitting both the snare and kick together in any combination splashes the cymbal, as does tapping its picture.
This works beautifully (and will remind PS2 owners of Frequency and Amplitude, early games from the company that developed Rock Band). The problem? There really are only two drums and a cymbal. We’d have loved a little more complexity. There are so many duplicated buttons – couldn’t one or two of them have been mapped to a tom?
The songs themselves are all covers (original versions are more expensive to license), and you’ll need to plow through story mode to unlock most of them. But the bigger problem is that there aren’t very many. Unless there are some hidden that we’ve missed, here’s the whole set list:
In the Shadows
Walk Idiot Walk
If Everyone Cared
Message in a Bottle
Smoke on the Water
You Really Got Me
What's My Age Again
Rock You Like a Hurricane
The Great Escape
That’s 15 tunes. For comparison, the latest Guitar Hero on DS has 28. Ouch.
There’s also a two-player co-op wireless mode, though the fact that both players need the game make it seem unlikely you’ll use it much. Overall, this isn’t a bad game, but it really does feel like the other half is out there somewhere waiting to be found. If it were $15 or $20, we’d say give it a shot. But at press time, it’s $30, only ten dollars cheaper than the latest Guitar Hero game on DS. That doesn’t cost it any points in our numerical score (because prices can change), but it means we simply can’t recommend it at all.
Nov 25, 2008