Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment – $49.99
The music game formula is nothing new. Start out with a plastic instrument and pick a song. Successful completion of a song unlocks more popular but increasingly difficult tunes. For your sequel, include the ability to play as various famous recording artists, both living and dead. Lather, rinse, repeat. Occasionally pick a specific band and focus a game around them (i.e. Beatles Rock Band) or them and the music they inspired (like when we found out that Van Halen somehow relates to Third Eye Blind).
So what separates Lego Rock Band from the rest of the pack? Personality. Anyone who has picked up Lego Star Wars or Lego Batman sees that something special that Lego-izing a popular character or moment can bring to the screen. The unique and quirky humor of seeing a stormtroopers explode in to a pile of brings or watching the Lego Riddler get locked up in jail hold a special place in our hearts because we don’t just love Star Wars and Batman, but we love Lego too. Sorry Megablocks. It’s great to see that this humor carries over to give the Rock Band series not only its first ever “story” mode, but translates in to unique visuals that fit both the Rock Band and Lego licenses well.
In terms of gameplay, Lego Rock Band does little to break the standard music game format. Player’s success is still determined by racking up streaks of notes with greater multipliers coming in to effect as that streak goes larger. The note highway still functions identically as it did in Guitar Hero and Rock Band, though it does feature a small visual stylistic change with Lego bricks cascading down it now for this game instead of the standard colored bars.
With Lego Rock Band does come the idea of recovery mode. In past games, if a player were to miss too many notes in a row, they’d either fail a song if playing solo or need to be revived by a teammate in multiplayer games. Now, players enter a recovery mode which allows them to regain the missed Lego bricks they had missed during the course of the song. Along with the new Super Easy difficulty, these modes allow for ease of use for younger and non-traditional video game players to the game. Also new to the format comes the Rock Power Challenges in story mode where a band shares their success meter to provide more of an all for one, one for all mentality as players must rely on their teammates to carry the weight of the song while they are not playing certain portions of the song.
Unlike Rock Band and Rock Band 2, Lego Rock Band finally brings with it an actual story mode instead of a standard World Tour mode. Like all young aspiring musicians, our player finds themselves sitting on their Lego couch watching their Lego TV where they see Lego Queen performing. (In the interest of time, assume ever noun and proper noun moving forward has Lego in front of it.) Instantly, the player is struck with inspiration to start their own band and holds tryouts.
Once their bandmates have been chosen, it’s time to hit the road using various Lego vehicles to different Lego iconic locations such as a haunted mansion, pirate’s island, race track or a subterranean lava pit. Using a total of 9 vehicles, the player travels to 19 venues to unlock the game’s 45 different tracks, acquiring different minifigure Lego outfit pieces, Rock Den decorations, pets and entourage members along the way.
While the term “story” is very loosely used as a way to link the events together in the game, it does feature some unique and creative moments. Some of these involve the player taking the role of various Lego-ized rock icons like David Bowie or Queen . Others include Rock Power Challenges where the band must work together to fend off ghosts, beat down an angry father octopus or destroy a building for a bumbling foreman. All these feature unique animations separate from the canned performance clips used in other songs.
The most laugh out loud comes during the “Shock Band” challenge where playing the Ghostbusters theme song helps scare away undead spirits. Every time the song shouts “Ghostbusters”, different Lego characters pop their heads in from various angles of the screen to shout along with the song.
The only negative to Story mode comes from the reoccurring playlist that happens with the game’s shortened track list. A problem that occurred within the first Rock Band, some venues have a player play a song, which then appears again in a mystery setlist which then appears in a Rock Power Challenge. There are multiple times during the game where the same song ends up being played back to back which quickly kills the fun factor of that song, especially a song like “Tick Tick Boom” by the Hives which has an incredibly redundant note sequence. This problem is aided somewhat if you have any other Rock Band DLC on your hard drive which can be thrown in to Make A Setlists and Mystery Setlists to add more variety but the repetition will still occur.
Graphics and Sound:
Graphics make up much of the unique appeal of the series by using the Lego motif. With smaller “levels” than Lego Star Wars or Lego Batman, the team was able to pack in as much detail as they could in to the venues and characters of Lego Rock Band. A near infinite level of combinations of characters become available when players get to mix and match different Lego heads, hats, arms and legs together to make their ultimate dream (or nightmare in some cases) rocker.
Players get to customize not only their own character, but the other members of their band and their entourage of their manager, record producer, roadies and various other members who are at the side of the stage during performances. The only disappointment in this feature is the lowered level of customization that used to be present in the other Lego games. Players used to be able to select by individual piece which has now been grouped together to only four body areas.
Sound obviously plays a huge role in Lego Rock Band as it is a music game. The tracklist comes with a ton of variety that leans towards a family friendly selection. You won’t be playing rock classics like “Woman” by Wolfmother here. Instead the variety will consist of pop classics like “Summer of 69” and “Kung Fu Fighting” to more current hits like “So What” and “Girls & Boys.” All the songs are master tracks so there is no fear of subpar covers of songs like those that appeared in the early Guitar Hero series. Other than the new tracklist though, Lego Rock Band sticks to the Rock Band standard with simple sound effects for missed notes and menu navigation.
Lego Rock Band doesn’t stray much from the proven music game formula. It also doesn’t have to. Much like buying a yearly iteration of Madden, players go in to a game like this knowing what to expect. A few small and subtle improvements are all that is needed along with a large pack of new tracks, all of which can be exported to the player’s hard drive for a fee to be combined with their Rock Band, Rock Band 2 and DLC tracks to further expand their music library.
The Lego versions of Queen, Blur and David Bowie add a funny and unique feel to the game as they are the first real bands (sans the Beatles) to appear in any standard Rock Band release. The standard Lego franchise humor also surprisingly fits well in the story mode of the game.
Purchasing decisions of this game really will come down to the musical taste of the player more than anything else. If you don’t like the tracks here, no amount of Lego fun will make the game worth a purchase to you. If you like the music but don’t feel the special Lego brand of visuals, Lego Rock Band provides a wealth of music that can be exported to the Rock Band standard.
If you have any little aspiring Rock Banders in your household, this is a great way to get them started. Lego Rock Band brings together a perfect blend of rock legacy and youthful nostalgia in to a very fun and very accessible music game.
– Lego Rock Band is also available on Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS