When the disparate worlds of LEGOs and rock stars collide, strange and wonderful things can happen. Seeing LEGO versions of an emaciated Iggy Pop, a mustache-emblazoned Freddie Mercury, a pretty boy-era David Bowie, and even the guys from Blur bash out their hits amidst a visual rock-n-roll cacophony of plastic toy bricks and rampant silliness offers far more enjoyment then we might first care to admit. Successfully combining two very distinct and well-known franchises, LEGO Rock Band goes a long way towards making the rhythm game genre more palatable to a truly all-ages audience.
Imagine taking the core Rock Band experience and filtering it through magical glasses that turn everything into living LEGOs, and you’ll get a good sense of what this game is all about. You still start a band, dress up your band mates in fun costumes, buy new vehicles, go on tour, and rock your heart out to a varied selection of tunes while earning cash and fans. With the necessary peripherals, up to four players can join in the action on guitar, bass, drums, and vocals as they rip their way through colorful LEGO note runways and karaoke-style vocal cues. For the most part, little has changed in that regard – you just get to do it as cool LEGO dudes in a bricked-out world. But the whole upbeat LEGO vibe and inherent playfulness that comes along with it seeps into the game in other areas, which makes the whole experience pretty endearing.
Subtle touches have been added in to make the experience easier for young players to pick up. A new no-fail mechanic lets you hit notes in a minigame to regain LEGO coins if your rocking isn't so hot, and picking up enough of them brings you back into the game. Super Easy difficulty mode gives little tykes a means of learning how to play with extremely simple strumming gameplay. Also, some songs are shortened to match limited attention spans. Hell, you can even set the kick drum pedal to autoplay. But even with these tweaks, the Expert difficulty setting will still give more experienced players a good workout.
The crazy new Power Challenges are where the wilder side of LEGO Rock Band really kicks in. These sporadic encounters let you wield the power of rock to accomplish bizarre tasks, including summoning a rock thunderstorm to quench a farmer's parched fields, battling a ticked off octopus while aboard a pirate ship in the middle of the ocean, demolishing a massive building with blaring distortion, and wrangling ghosts from a haunted house. Then there are warring knights, curious aliens, and other funny situations to conquer with rock.
Song-wise, LEGO Rock Band's family-friendly fare indeed offers a few tunes specifically for the kiddies (the Ghostbusters theme, Kung Fu Fighting, Walking On Sunshine, Crocodile Rock), though it still contains a solid mix of pop, rock, and punk to get the fists pumping. Tracks by Spinal Tap, Iggy Pop, Vampire Weekend, Foo Fighters, The Hives, and Europe provide some relief from the lighter tunes in the mix, for those whose tastes lean towards the more rocking end of the musical spectrum.
It takes quite some time to work through the main tour mode and access all of the game's tunes. But if the 45 song set list feels a little too light, you can always pick up downloadable tunes through the LEGO Rock Band store. For a $9.99 fee, you can also export LEGO Rock Band tracks to your hard drive to load up in other Rock Band games. Aside from nicer-looking HD visuals, these seemingly no-brainer options really set the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions apart from the Wii. The built-in LEGO Rock Band store lets you purchase any of the 350 family-friendly DLC songs available and play them with your LEGO band. It’s a pretty awesome feature that greatly expands the somewhat limited track selections.
LEGO Rock Band does a great job of tailoring the core rhythm gameplay to its intended audience. And if you've ever been a fan of LEGOs and have even a passing interest in music games, you'll have some fun with these blocky rockers.
Nov 19, 2009