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Rock Band Blitz review

Decent
AT A GLANCE
  • Pleasantly inventive power-ups
  • Makes each song feel new again
  • Works with all your Rock Band DLC
  • Saving up for temporary point boosters
  • Constantly micromanaging each track
  • Not much to do once you’ve played all your songs

Rock Band Blitz is a bit like a wooden rollercoaster. When you first experience it, it’s thrilling--but with each repeated ride, it starts to feel less exciting and more rickety. The immediate comparison to make would be Harmonix’s 2001 PlayStation 2 breakout title FreQuency, and its fantastic 2003 follow-up Amplitude. Sadly, Rock Band Blitz’s fleeting fun falls short of the addictive arcade action of those titles.

The basic premise is simple enough: you’re a one-person band, juggling the multiple instruments that create each track by switching between adjacent note-filled lanes. Those plastic instruments you’ve got stashed in your closet will stay there: Blitz is played solely with a single controller, with your two thumbs tapping in time to the the two note receptors in each lane. The d-pad/A button combo is more comfortable than the analog stick option--clacking the twin sticks back and forth just doesn’t feel suited for a rhythm game.

In addition to the 25 included songs, which can all be played in Rock Band 3 and range from Ugh (Fall Out Boy’s “A Little Less Sixteen Candles”) to Righteous (“I’m Still Standing” by Elton John), you can boot up any preexisting DLC song on your hard drive and play it for points. Strangely, there’s no difficulty select--Blitz determines a challenge level for you, and you’re at its mercy if that song is brutally demanding.

This is where the game starts to feel a bit shaky: two-button jamming works great when you’re in the groove of a familiar song, but for more difficult levels or songs you’ve never heard, the hardest bits devolve into button mashing. Blitz doesn’t necessarily penalize you for this, since instead of chained note combos, it values the amount of notes played before seemingly random intervals. Once you pass through these intervals, Blitz checks to see if you’ve been properly tending to each track, and adjusts your multiplier accordingly.

There seems to be no strategy to prepping for these mid-song assessments; perhaps you're already familiar with the song and know when each break is coming, or you’ll be scrambling at the last second to meet your note quota. That’s a problem with a multi-track music game like this one: if you’re feeling the beat in a given lane, you’re inevitably going to be ripped out of your rhythm when you’re faced to fill in the other note paths.

But Harmonix's earlier games designed in this same vein felt much more satisfying than Blitz. Take Amplitude: instead of Blitz’s mundane cruises through uninteresting cityscapes in every single song, Amplitude gave you psychedelic visuals and clips from music videos. Amplitude’s individual tracks would only “activate” and play music if you’d successfully nailed their notes, giving you a natural incentive to bounce between lanes; Blitz places little emphasis on whether or not you’re doing well, and just plays the music for you.

Regrettably, one of Blitz’s best assets is also its primary weakness. There are a plethora of fun power-ups to unlock, which you can mix and match ‘til you’ve found your optimal set-up. They include beefed-up point values, spreading fire-notes, bouncing purple pinballs, and point-boosting shockwaves, and more. They’re all a blast to use; the problem is, they don’t last. Each time you play a song, you’ll need to spend “Blitz Coins” to use power-ups, a currency granted after each song or via Facebook-interconnected goals. They’re not microtransactions for real-world cash--but seeing as how it’s nearly impossible to get a good score without them, you’ll often be forced to farm coins just to compete with your buddy’s scores. It feels like the sort of grinding you’d find in free-to-play games, not in a title in this genre.

After nearly five years of investment in DLC for Rock Band as a platform, Rock Band Blitz offers up new means of playing all of the songs you've bought. But without a full-fledged campaign or multiplayer progression, chasing high scores on the Blitz leaderboards can’t help but feel a bit hollow. Although the premise is good, it ultimately falls short, and you might be better off just picking another instrument from your typical choice and rediscovering Rock Band with another play style.

This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.

More Info

Release date: Aug 29 2012 - PS3, Xbox 360 (US)
Available Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
Genre: Rhythm
Developed by: Harmonix
Franchise: Rock Band
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes

4 comments

  • Kariodude - August 30, 2012 3:35 p.m.

    There are several points in this review that made me think "wait what?" so I'm going to do a lengthy breakdown. Enjoy! "Strangely, there’s no difficulty select--Blitz determines a challenge level for you, and you’re at its mercy if that song is brutally demanding." Yes and the songs range from easy to difficult so...why is this a bad thing? "Blitz doesn’t necessarily penalize you for this, since instead of chained note combos, it values the amount of notes played before seemingly random intervals." You don't get points for notes you don't play. That's penalization enough for a game where you're trying to get high scores. Also, these "random intervals" aren't random. If you play a song twice in a row you'll notice they are in the same place. They are calculated in the game (like most things are) to work with the song you're playing. The intervals are all long enough for you to get the multiplier up on all of the available instruments. That's the whole points of these intervals. "There seems to be no strategy to prepping for these mid-song assessments...you’ll be scrambling at the last second to meet your note quota." There is a feeling of scrambling when you see the indicator in the distance, but you can always look at the multipliers and know which ones need your attention throughout the entire song. "Take Amplitude: instead of Blitz’s mundane cruises through uninteresting cityscapes in every single song, Amplitude gave you psychedelic visuals and clips from music videos" The real focus is on the instrument lanes. Yes, there's a cityscape, but I hardly ever stop to enjoy the cars and buildings because I'm playing the game. With thousands of songs available, it's a little silly to expect songs to have unique visuals. It's just not possible. "Blitz places little emphasis on whether or not you’re doing well, and just plays the music for you." This point seemed especially odd to me. I don't know if you'd changed the settings beforehand or something, but the game and audio absolutely put emphasis on whether you're doing well. If you miss a bunch of notes, they get faded out and the song sounds weird. When you're doing well, you can hear it in how much clearer that instrument sounds. "you’ll often be forced to farm coins just to compete with your buddy’s scores." I've never felt that way. The coins I use in contrast with the coins I naturally earn on each song have been fairly balanced. Plus I set up a bunch of challenges on Facebook and I've never run out of coins. I've played about 45 songs so far and not once has it felt like I'm grinding nor have I run out of coins. "But without a full-fledged campaign or multiplayer progression, chasing high scores on the Blitz leaderboards can’t help but feel a bit hollow." I don't know how a campaign would help the game. If I recall, we all agreed these music games didn't need a campaign after the horrible "stories" they tried putting in the Guitar Hero games. As for multiplayer, I don't even know how that would work. Competitive would be pointless since we have leaderboards and cooperative would just be a mess of confusion. "Although the premise is good, it ultimately falls short" I'm enjoying the game more than I thought I would and I honestly can't pick out anything I dislike about it. It's a great premise and it far exceeds my expectations. I hope everyone at least gives the demo a try. I know my friends and I all love it.
  • Darkhawk - August 27, 2012 12:37 p.m.

    "Blitz places little emphasis on whether or not you’re doing well, and just plays the music for you." I think I speak for most of us when I declare an official WTF on this one. Why would they change the formula that worked so well for Frequency, Amplitude, and even Rock Band Unplugged? Fission mailed, Harmonix. Fission mailed.
  • colinlake - August 28, 2012 2:43 p.m.

    On the forums they said that "If you play well, the track you are playing is louder than the others. If you miss notes the volume of that track drops way down, and we play miss noises." http://www.rockband.com/forums/showthread.php?t=228162&p=4705880&viewfull=1#post4705880
  • Darkhawk - October 12, 2012 3:55 p.m.

    They did the same thing with Phase for the iPod nano... where at least you could play any of your own songs. I don't see why they'd miss with the formula: play the track to activate it; miss the track and it stays silent.

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