Game Review: ‘Rock Band Blitz’ for XBLA

The music game genre has been around now for a long time and has gone through many iterations. There have been controller based games, dance pad games, and even plastic instrument games. Now, Harmonix, the team responsible for the plastic instrument subsection of the genre goes back to its roots with Rock Band Blitz. Rock Band Blitz is a controller based rhythm game that isn’t just a rehash of Harmonix’s classic Frequency though. It is a compilation of all that the company has learned from and grown with since they embarked in to the world of gaming and music in 1995.

The Long . . .

The first thing you are going to notice is that Rock Band Blitz isn’t your standard rhythm game where the goal is to hit 100% of the notes on screen. In fact, it is impossible to do so. The reason is because Rock Band Blitz is designed to let players choose their path for which notes they want to play. Instead of a note highway assigned to each different player’s instrument, Rock Band Blitz is a one player game with four or five lanes all running next to each other. The player must make choices on which path to take to hit the most possible notes to get the highest score.

The note highway consists of four or five lanes, depending on the song. Each lane only has two notes that can flow down it at once though, a right or left note. It seems simple enough… until you see the four other lanes of notes passing by. This is where the strategy kicks in quick and gives Rock Band Blitz its legs.

Players can decide to keep on their current lane with an easier note progression or they can risk more by moving along to the harder set of notes in the next lane. In addition, players must figure out when to switch lanes in order to keep increasing each lane’s multiplier. As players can only increase a multiplier up to three more than their lowest value at each check point, they do need to play from all the lanes to further increase their scores.

Players finally get the choice of spending coins (earned by completing songs) to use various power-ups throughout each play. The combination of all these makes Rock Band Blitz the most cerebral of the franchise as choice is as important as skill for reaching the highest possible score.

The gameplay actually starts out a little clunky and confusing until you get used to it or decide to switch up you control scheme. The default having you use the control sticks instead of just straight button presses feels somewhat awkward. In a game that is about quick button presses and timing, being hindered by a controller is not a problem you want to find yourself dealing with. Luckily it is more of a learning curve issue to retrain yourself how to switch back to controlling a note highway with a standard controller than a long term issue. This, like playing the plastic instruments, is something you can get better with over time. Though the actual mechanics of it are simple in theory, there are layers of depth which is what will attract players to the game.

One of the most strongest or most divisive assets for Rock Band Blitz is its song list. As with previous titles, there is a varied set of tunes included with the game, this time getting twenty five tracks for only the game’s $15 price. For a twenty five song playlist, there is a lot of variety to it. The one that everyone seems to be focusing on is “Jesse’s Girl” by Rick Springfield but there is a wide range alongside it that includes Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” and even “Jungle Boogie” by Kool & The Gang.

For the whole page package, you get what would normally be $50 worth of DLC songs to add to your Rock Band archive for only $15 which is a great deal, as long as you can find at least 7 or 8 songs in the list that you are a fan of. For me, I quickly recognized 18 of the songs and am a fan of 15 of them. That alone justified the purchase price in my case though it will be different for other players.

To progress through the twenty-five song catalog of Rock Band Blitz, players must only achieve three stars per song. But, Rock Band Blitz is huge on competition, leaderboards and social media (including Facebook integration) which means the game is constantly showing you just how you placed amongst the competition, Challenges can be set and new high scores are always the aim, including seeing how you fall in the leaderboards for the songs in the game as well as every piece of DLC you own. This is one of the game’s biggest assets for fans of Rock Band as they will have tons of content to play through.

Rock Band, Rock Band 2, LEGO Rock Band and Rock Band Green Day content and all other DLC loads into Rock Band Blitz. When talking about longevity of a title, this system helps increase the replayability of any title from Harmonix. Because there hasn’t be an Export option added to Rock Band 3 yet, it’s song content isn’t available on Rock Band Blitz, though Blitz’s songs are playable in Rock Band 3. It is sad that the content of Dance Central doesn’t work in this same way to add a little bit of dance and hip hop variety to the mix (though it is probably to not tick off PlayStation owners).

. . . and the Short

Harmonix didn’t create the rhythm genre but they are known for helping define it. Though Rock Band Blitz doesn’t completely reinvent the wheel, it does give a nice shiny set of rims to it. Unlike Rock Band which has become the definitive party experience, Rock Band Blitz is something more casual that can be enjoyed in shorter bursts without the effort of pulling out a five piece band setup.

At the same time, Rock Band Blitz gives a new and different experience for fans of the genre. And, at the very least, Rock Band Blitz acts as an awesome twenty-five song DLC pack that can be used with the rest of your DLC and Rock Band libraries.

XBox Live Arcade (Also Available on PlayStation Network)

Developer: Harmonix

Publisher: Harmonix

Price: 1200 Microsoft Points ($15.00)

Score: 7.5

 

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