Sure Plays a Mean Pinball
We all loved Guitar Hero at one point or another, but at this point, with its fifth iteration in four years coming out; the franchise has been milking a dead cow for quite a while. This is what worries me about Rock Band’s franchise – the reason I switched over was because of Guitar Hero’s multiple new titles every year. But with the franchise coming to the PSP and later releasing the Beatles version on home consoles, are we seeing the same trend? We take a look at the PSP version, Rock Band Unplugged below:
Rock Band Unplugged offers a very different style of gameplay from any other Rock Band or Guitar Hero title before it. Akin to that old gamer favorite, Amplitude (or Frequency) on the PS2, Rock Band Unplugged has a gameplay style that has you playing all instruments at the same time.
Unplugged takes the familiar “lane button” format that we all know and love on the home consoles but rather than having a peripheral, it maps four different “buttons” to the left, up, triangle, and circle buttons of the PSP. You play the same exact way you do with the guitar or drum controller, but rather than using the peripheral, your finger gets the workout instead.
Where the system changes things up is that you must play “phrases” that are comprised of small parts of the song you’re currently playing. Once you play a phrase on an instrument, you must look to see which other lane has notes coming up and switch to that lane with the right or left trigger. For instance, in playing Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer, you start off on the base, but quickly have to switch to the guitar for the first part of the song.
If this sounds daunting, that’s because it is. However, the tutorials and easier difficulties reduce the learning curve by a significant amount. Start switching into the higher difficulties and you’ll notice that the system breaks apart because no matter how fast your hands are, you need your eye to be even faster.
I don’t know how anybody could play it on Expert (I tried two or three songs on the difficulty), and my fingers were cramping up so badly that I had to quit out of it. The “Hard” difficulty is rather doable if you’re a Rock Band Veteran.
I have a few gripes with the game, but sound isn’t one of them. The sound design of Unplugged is beautiful. Play the base, and the other instruments drown out so you can focus on what you’re doing. Switch over and the music flawlessly continues without the game taking a framerate hit.
The high pitched notes play perfectly, and while the lower notes, especially those on the base seem a little bit too deep to compensate for the PSP’s lack of a true subwoofer, it’s a minor gripe.
Playing the game with headphones on is a pleasure, and is my personal recommendation for you.
Here we hit a slight problem. Unplugged has mechanics and sound that are both fantastic and have only small problems. The set-list however, poses a significant problem.
The songs feel like uninspired choices. You’re not getting any truly new content out of this. All the songs found on here, save a select few notable exceptions (Pearl Jam’s “Alive”, for instance), are all rehashes of previous Rock Band or even Guitar Hero songs.
While I could probably play Aqualung and Mr. Brightside thousands of times over, I trembled with fear at the “mystery” setlists where anything was fair game. Particularly annoying are those songs that have no real rhythm and seem aimed at trying to drown you in guitar solos.
I don’t think I could stand playing “The Killing Jar” or “Miss Murder” one more time, much less the amount of times the game seemed to demand of me.
I only have two problems with Unplugged – its campaign is painfully boring and repetitive when all you really want is to have all songs unlocked from the very get-go and the song choices are poor at best, with only about 10 songs out of the 60 really shining through.
If you’re a Rock Band aficionado and don’t mind wading through the junk songs, I highly recommend Unplugged because it’s a new experience that combines the great track settings of Rock Band with the addictive gameplay of a game like Amplitude/Frequency.