Band rivalry is the bedrock of, well, rock. Beatles vs Stones. Blur vs Oasis. Jedward vs Anyone cursed with the capacity to hear. Rock Band and Guitar Hero’s rift is the worst of the lot. Releasing practically the same products on practically the same Friday, this is a playground war of attrition, like two child enemies holding their parties on the same day to see who has more friends. Hero tends to win (Hero 5 trounced Beatles), so Warner Bros has brought in the big guns: LEGO.
Traveller’s Tales – custodians of all things brick – decided to throw out rock posturing and go for the funny. The opening cutscene wittily mimics Rock Band’s; icons (Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Iggy Pop) are reborn with hands incapable of playing any instruments; notation blobs become bricks; points are studs. TT’s only genuine innovations are rock challenges, narrative events powered by performance. You can use The Hives to demolish a building. Much like how we use the Spice Girls to peel scum from our bathtub.
We’re not surprised at this. TT aren’t your go-to guys for mechanical innovations. But as good as the cladding is, it’s never more than this – decoration around Harmonix’s music game. If anything, TT’s biggest ideas jar with Harmonix’s underlying format. Rock challenges are funny, but how can we watch cutscenes while following a stream of button-thumping notes? At a party, people couldn’t care less for witty dressing. Guests want a swig of Pepsi, not to admire the can’s ring pull.
Taken on a pure party basis, Band Hero takes it. We Will Rock You, The Final Countdown, Kung Fu Fighting and Ghostbusters are crowd-pleasing coups for LEGO, but Band’s Spice Girls, Village People, Robbie Williams and Cheap Trick offer more obviously singable pop ditties. Boiling it down to cold hard cash, Band Hero gives you 20 more songs than LEGO's stingy 45, particularly as this game is DLC-free (a huge step back for a franchise that really got its act together in Rock Band 2).
Yes, LEGO Rock Band has more of a solo campaign – you build a band and amass a following by employing helpers – but this contradicts the social thrust of the song-list and new easy play modes. And though it matters not for the sound of the thing, but man, did TT beat Rock Band with the ugly stick. We know Iggy Pop looks jaggy in real life, but this is ridiculous. And Blur? Yes, the graphics certainly do.
Nov 19, 2009