Rock Band has finally graced the iPhone. It’s funny though because it seems the hype surrounding its release has been fairly low, considering the magnitude of its existence. On consoles Rock Band has been waging a bloody war against the Guitar Hero franchise. Now it is the first one of the two hit iPhone. However, it is not the first monster rhythm game on the platform, as Tap Tap has been dominating things here since the app stores inception. So how does Rock Band stack against platform veteran Tap Tap?
I have been playing Rock Band for consoles since the day it came out, Guitar hero for even longer than that. So when I found out that Rock Band was coming to the iPhone I was excited, but a little skeptical. What makes Rock Band so much fun is having “real” instruments. I was worried about how playing the game would feel without them. I was afraid the game would be like just tapping the screen to notes with a Rock Band skin. I was right of course, and I don’t want to knock the game for this fact, because, what else could it really be?
EA has done as much as they possibly can to add as many modes as possible to the game. They have a quick play option, for when you just have a few minutes and you want to jump in and play a song and be done with it. They also added a World Tour mode, which sees you going from city to city unlocking new songs and earning stars as you progress. In the world tour mode, there is also band asynchronous multiplayer based over FaceBook. Bluetooth quick play is also available if you have a friend nearby who has Rock Band on their phone. They even included a music store where you can go and buy new songs to play in the game.
Speaking of songs, I think the track list in the game leaves much to be desired. I mean come on, “We got the beat,” in a game called Rock Band? Something about that just doesn’t sit right with me. It’s really not my place to review the music though, as everyone has different taste. I just think some of the songs don’t really feel rock-ish enough.
The most important facet of a music game is timing. Does tapping the notes match up both visibly and audibly? Unfortunately, the timing in Rock Band could be much better. It just feels a little off. If you look intently at the notes and just tap them as you see them, it’s fine. But if you are really good at these types of games, and you play on the faster, harder difficulties, then you know, most of the timing is based on hearing the beat and using the visuals to lead you in the right direction. This is where Rock Band slips a little. It’s not terrible, and the casual player probably will not even see it, but it is there, and if you are hardcore into music games, I might consider staying away from this until a patch is issued. All that said, once you get used to the way the timing works it becomes less noticeable, and if you are willing to rework your brain a little you can get passed it and still have a great time with the game.
Each instrument plays a little bit differently, but they mostly consist of tapping the screen in time with note. Guitar and bass both have four fret buttons to tap. There is no strum, which makes sense. There are hammer on and pull offs, which are smaller notes that you play by sliding your finger across the different buttons rather than listing your finger up and tapping. Drums are just like the guitar and base except you are tapping little drums instead of fret buttons. Just like guitar, there is no kick pedal, just four drums to tap. Singing is kind of odd. I wasn’t sure if you would be actually singing into the microphone on the iPhone, (which would have been preferable, but I don’t know if it’s feasible.) Instead it plays much like the other instruments, except vertically instead of horizontally. Depending on how the singer is singing you tap and hold one of 4 buttons in time to the notes the singer is belting. It’s a very creative way to mimic singing, but not the most fun. I would stick to playing one of the instruments over singing every time.
Everything works well as far as the controls go, except for deploying overdrive, which is a score multiplier. You have to shake the iPhone to set it off, and I this made me miss notes almost every time, which completely defeated the point of multiplying your score. I’m sure there is a more intuitive way to make this work, I don’t know what it is, but I don’t make games, so it’s not my job to know.
The graphics are pretty good in the game, but if you really look at the characters behind the note chart they don’t animate too well. It’s not really a game breaker, since most of the time playing is spent looking at the notes, but I feel it should be acknowledged anyway.
The sound is really good, all the tracks are masters, and when you miss a note is stop playing, just like I hoped it would. Other then the track list, which I think could be a little better, the audio is close to perfect.
Overall, Rock Band is a decent game that needs some tweaks. The timing issue is the main problem, but there are some other nagging issues, and with one good update this game could be a must have. As it stands now, I think this game is not really finely tuned, and will only be appealing to casual music game fans.