Activision’s attempt to reach out to a younger, more casual rhythm gaming audience may send an uneasy shudder down the spines of some in the hardcore Guitar Hero crowd, but the scores of tweens and teeny boppers that will surely flock to Band Hero and find themselves hooked on the experience means more money in the bank. Band Hero on the DS isn’t nearly as drenched in pink glitter and mindless pre-teen slang as its console brethren. That’s not a bad thing. However, this ill-fated rock-n-roll ship springs some fatal leaks early on in its voyage.
In its portable form, Band Hero builds on the foundation set down by the recent Guitar Hero: On Tour titles in a way that’s initially exciting but soon falls apart due to implementation issues. The big change here is you can now play guitar, bass, drums, or vocals on each track. While the draconian, hand cramp-inducing Guitar Grip that allowed you to hit colored guitar and bass notes by tapping four familiar-colored buttons while strumming the touch screen is back, Band Hero also introduces a new peripheral. The Drum Grip is a rubber skin-like contraption that fits over the lower half of your DS Lite and lets you tap out drum notes on four small thumb pads instead of the D-Pad and buttons. It’s sort of fun to use on lower difficulty levels, but you’ll take a huge hit in accuracy when playing drums on the grueling Expert mode – something that’s easily solved by tearing the thing off your DS.
Adding drums into the mix is actually an enjoyable and challenging new element compared tothe game's nearly broken vocal parts though. You have to either sing super loud or practically press your mouth up to the DS microphone to get vocal cues to register. And if singing into a microphone didn’t feel embarrassing enough, singing at your DS sure isn’t any less awkward. Regardless of what instrument you play, there are new mini game diversions pop-up in mid-songs to give you a chance to artificially boost your star power. These short activities include pulling roadies out of the mosh pit, stage diving, crowd surfing, and checking merch to cheering fans.
Band Hero doesn’t have any career mode to speak of. You’re given access to all 30 tracks from the get-go, and you can queue up mini set lists of a few songs at a time. The DS version sports a decidedly less obnoxious set list that will actually hold some appeal for Guitar Hero regulars. Money you earn from gigs can be spent on character outfits and instrument models. There are also achievement-like awards to unlock for each instrument that provide some sense of accomplishment for playing. The strong local co-op and competitive multiplayer modes are also worth playing, assuming you can find someone else who has the game.
The gameplay is still fun if you’re willing to suffer through painful hand cramping from playing guitar and bass, severely wounded vocal registry, and a general lack of precision provided by the Drum Grip. Oh wait, that doesn’t sound so fun. The peripherals do more to kill the experience than enhance it, which totally defeats the purpose of this pricey package.
Nov 17, 2009