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As stupid as many of us felt when we first strapped on Guitar Hero’s little-people-sized plastic guitars with big, color-coded buttons, it enabled us to start rocking out like lunatics. And nobody’s come up with a console rhythm action game since that didn’t use a plastic guitar and was still worth a damn. That’s not going to change with PopStar Guitar. It means well and even tries some new things, but doesn’t do any of them right. It’s like your Aunt Sissy, who very sweetly goes into the game store to buy you Halo 3, but comes back with Bratz: Rock Angelz because the only thing she remembered was you wanted “something heaven-y”.
The big news with the Wii version is the way the game compensates for not having a guitar controller. There’s a plastic sleeve that fits over the Wii remote and has four – not five, but four – chunky colored buttons: Green, red, yellow, and blue (screw you, orange. Nothing rhymes with you anyway). To play the game, you hold the remote in your left/fretting hand and press the buttons, and make a strumming motion with the Nunchuk.
It’s a nice compromise in theory, but like that whole “sure, let’s see other people but keep seeing one another too” concept, it totally sucks in reality. The buttons aren’t responsive enough at all. Points for effort, though.
What we won’t give any points for is the note track, which is vertical instead of the “road stretching off into the distance” approach used by every game that knows what it’s doing. Note to developers: Give up on the vertical thing. It makes the notes appear too suddenly, it covers up too much of the screen and it sucks.
Speaking of sucking, the note patterns themselves seem to have been created by non-musicians. We’re not expecting note-for-note tablature, but we would prefer notes that made us feel like we were playing the same song we were hearing. When you turn the sound completely off in a music game and your score actually improves, there’s a big problem.
Even the songlist has problems. It’s more than 50 songs deep – that part is nice. And it has all the current pop hits you’d expect from Rihanna, Avril Lavigne, Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Maroon 5, and Fall Out Boy. Some of these are good, and some are dreck. Similarly, some of them are the original tracks, and some are okay covers, and some are godawful covers sung by people who could easily make that “worst auditions” episode American Idol does every year. And if you think it at least looks okay graphically… nope. Sorry. It’s not visually offensive, but it could pass for a GameCube game. The final verdict? This is the Sanjaya of rhythm action games – it makes a novel first impression, but you realize almost immediately that it’s only worthwhile if you like laughing at ineptitude.
Dec 11, 2008