Review: Rock Band Blitz (XBLA)

Follow the ominous rainbow road

Lost all your friends due to your God awful personality? Has your bad attitude towards cooperation deterred everyone from using your living room of colourful instruments? Don’t worry, every band has it’s bumps, and Harmonix are here to help the newly lonesome with a single player dose of music goodness. Rock Band Blitz is the perfect creation for those with such low self-esteem their dreams can’t escalate to the point where they’re even a roadie.

Rock Band Blitz is a flashback to the days before Harmonix relied on plastic instruments to get by. Reminiscent of early titles Frequency and Amplitude, Blitz takes each iconic instrument from the franchise and slims them down to two notes a piece. Chucking players on a colourful trail of beats and riffs, it’s your task to glue tracks together by juggling each component of a song, be it through vocals, guitar, bass, drums and keyboard. Rock Band Blitz isn’t the ultimate rock experience, it’s the ultimate one man band experience, and whilst that doesn’t sound fascinating, you’ll soon feel foolish when you waste half a day on it…

Whilst instruments are dumbed down to two notes a piece for compact initiation from your shoulder buttons, the gameplay has done anything but. Although missing a note no longer results in whines and boos from your own mother, it can affect your overall status of awesomeness. Each stage of song is split up by four multipliers a piece. Hitting notes increases the multiplier. If all instruments match a multiplier stage before the end of a segment then the potential for higher multipliers in the next segment increases. Before suiting up, musicians can arm themselves with an array of carefully chosen power-ups, be they multiplier boosts or…wild pinballs used to thwack tons of notes you might otherwise miss if you stayed on a single instrument. Utilising a trick that will garnish more points on a guitar track will obviously work better with rift heavy songs and so preparation is key in every tuneful mission you undertake.

And that’s where Blitz stops becoming a game and starts becoming an exam. An exuberantly colourful exam where success equals ego, failure is non-existent and under-achieving means revision of some of the greatest tracks in you Rock Band library. Prepping with different power-up combinations could mean all the difference between ’5 star ratings’ and ’5 GOLD star ratings. With a fine blend of common sense and skill, you’ll be raking in legions of points, but a pal is always waiting around the corner just a few points ahead, with a different approach in tow.

Knows just how to seduce you into its grasp Each step made by every wannabe maestro is recorded Orwellian style through leaderboards, and even if you’re doing well in the standings, Blitz is quick to stir muck should your friends be one step ahead of you. Reminders constantly pop up about others forays in the songs you’ve conquered, and if you haven’t beaten them, it will burn into the song’s records until you eventually decimate it. If feuds are created, you can challenge others in wars, setting a high score on a song and seeing if your opponent can beat it in a set number of days. It’s a shame you cannot directly battle a mate in tug-of-war performances, as direct multiplayer really could’ve given this an extra enjoyable edge, but if you’re uber competitive, laying down milestones for others to conquer should be enough.

Successfully beating songs and guffawing over opponents in set battles earns you cred and coins. Cred…tallies up vast quantities of numbers into a leaderboard that has absolutely no relevance to anything whatsoever once all power-ups have been unlocked. Coins act as luscious tokens for the power-up tax man and vanish as soon as you retrieve them. If you want to make an impression on leaderboards, you need power-ups, and power-ups require coins. However, at no point did I ever find myself handing out sexual favours on the street to scrounge for more. They were always in plentiful supply, and surely if they ever do run out, then I’ll have to constantly replay songs just to have a shot at earning a decent score at another. It’s a strangely pointless system that gives this false sense of reward, and feels inherently rather cheap compared to the sheer enjoyment you get simply out of playing songs or boosting star ranks.

Rather than cast you into the illustrious daydream backdrops of your own sold out concert, Blitz seems to place you in a tram gliding down a rainbow road, as if you’re a no-hoper singing along to tunes on the radio. That rings true on many accounts, but at least the road you’re driving along doesn’t resemble Bognor Regis. It’s more like you’re trundling through an LSD fuelled Brighton with bouncing buildings and violently burning rainbow roads. It may not be as visually busy as previous instrument laden affairs, but the set-up is just as vibrant and easily manageable, despite some of the colourful madness streaming straight into your eyes.

Blitz’s soundtrack is by far not the strongest the series has ever seen, but it terms of value, it works out. It’s a hit-and-miss 25 song bundle that works out cheaper than they would do individually, with an added game bolted on. Buy this on its own, and you’ll be done with it in minutes, especially if you have a hate/despise relationship with Moves Like Jagger. Add a legion of additional content from your Rock Band library however, and you’ll soon find this a rather enigmatic way to enjoy some of your favourite music. You can utilise pretty much any track on your hard drive downloaded from the Rock Band store, and the game even actively recommends tracks for you to shell out on. While Blitz’s long term appeal pretty much comes down to your back catalogue, it will leave those without a fictional music career behind them lumped with a mixed bag of tracks.

Whilst it’s not a revolutionary reinvention of the music game genre, Rock Band Blitz is an exceptionally clever title that knows just how to seduce you into its grasp and keep you spooning for hours. Its deceptively simple structure soon reveals an incredibly layered experience that’ll hook the slightest competitive human being should they have the right friends to do battle against. If you’ve never owned a Rock Band game and have no back catalogue to rely on, then watch out. This deceptively cheap instalment may soon have you chucking money at the screen in a bid to prove to your friends that you are master of the musical trigger buttons.

The Good: Addictive and simple gameplay, Interesting ways of approaching tracks through power ups that can alter scores, Constant tracking of high scores drive the competitive

The Bad: Lifespan relies on your DLC history, Rather poor mix of original tracks (for personal tastes), Little reward incentives for the lonely

Gameplay:  8
Graphics:    7
Sound:       7
Overall:      7

Bronze Y Award

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