Rock Band Blitz Review (Xbox 360)
Plastic instruments are a distant memory in this latest entry into the Rock Band franchise as Rock Band Blitz capitalises on the fever created by the franchise, offering something fresh for the old-guard while making new players feel welcome as it “revolutionises” the music-game genre and makes things more accessible than ever before.
Very few of the things that made Rock Band what is is today exists in Rock Band Blitz; Harmonix has thrown the book out of the window and have built Rock Band Blitz from the ground up with a new approach to the franchise with a mechanic that was popularised by their original IP Frequency, that will have everyone learning new techniques from the very beginning.
Like any other music game Rock Band Blitz plays a song and players must hit notes at a specific time in line with what comes along the note highway. The difficulty and severity with which the notes descend depend on the song and the game offers numerous styles and speeds that will challenge even the most confident of players.
The difference with Blitz is the fact that you’re not ever just playing one instrument. All Five (Or four, in some cases) note highways are lined up across your screen and your challenge is to play as many as possible while juggling a multiplier for each instrument. Your Multiplier plays in heavily in this game as you’re unable to level one instrument too far above another; the game hits checkpoints every so often and you’ll either have hit enough notes in all the lanes to bring your multiplier cap up (To a maximum of +3) or you won’t and you’ll scramble to increase that stray instrument you forgot in the mix.
You’re offered multiple power ups throughout the game that you earn by playing songs. Songs give you coins and those go to purchasing the single use of these upgrades. Some are as simple as a score multiplier or something that plays a single note track for you during a limited period and some fire a pinball down the track which you keep in the field with your paddle to quickly build up some serious score.
Rock Band Blitz presents a fresh and clean interface that doesn’t allow the clutter to build on a single screen. Menus are simple side scrolling options that are self explanatory and offer a freedom of choice to quickly jump into song after song or send a challenge to a friend and watch as they try to beat your score. Everything about Blitz tells of a company extremely aware of the popularity of casual games and social networks, the strength with which those platforms can steamroll into something larger than the product itself and, largely, Harmonix have been successful in that endeavour.
Facebook integration allows you to see friends high scores even though they may not be on your console’s friend list and even put challenges out through the same system. The lack of need for plastic peripherals when playing the game opens up to an entirely new entry level for those who either had no intention of cluttering up a house with numerous plastic instruments or who were unwilling to spend astronomical amounts of money on what is largely a party item.
Blitz is played solely with a controller and requires four buttons during play; left and right notes as well as buttons for switching lanes and power ups. The core of the game is solid and offers a fluidity to the learning process that ushers you gently through song after song until, without realising, you’re a confident player putting great scores up for people to see.
Blitz falls down at the very beginning of the game. You’re new and pushed straight into a song with little explanation other than a two-minute tutorial. When the game quickly ramps up to its full pace you’ll be left overwhelmed and underprepared; confused by the mechanics and intensity with which you’re expected to play at. While this is something easily overcome by pushing through and putting more time in it’s sure to be something to scare new players away who are just looking for the more casual side of the game.
Power ups are given no explanation when they unlock and it’s only with a trial and error attitude that you begin to understand the mechanic at work and what song powers will be best used for. While this could be seen as a part of the evolution of your understanding it would be much preferred is this was included in the tutorial and players could get on with playing the songs with powers that will boost scores rather than testing the waters cautiously every time something is unlocked.
Rock Band Blitz makes an entirely new platform for the Rock Band games to be played on. Everything (Except Rock Band 3) can be imported into Blitz and will be converted to the new play style meaning if you’ve been invested in these games from the beginning, have spent a healthy amount of money on DLC and have picked up the side-games (Greenday, LEGO, etc..) then you’re going to have an extensive library with which to meddle with in Blitz. 25 songs come packed with the game which offer a good spread of genre and era to appeal to almost anyone and the existing store that has lived throughout all Rock Band games is already live with everything you could ever want right at your fingertips.
Although Rock Band Blitz takes away what some may think is a key element of the Music-genre, the party aspect, it has come leaps and bounds in improving its usability within a modern day economy. At such a low barrier of entry, players will now be able to play 25 songs to their hearts content and rather than waste extra on peripherals can instead funnel that money into what is most important: More songs. Blitz offers a great platform and simplistic gameplay that has the potential for a far larger appeal that its predecessors could ever have hoped to gain.