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Rock Band Blitz Review

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On 09/18/2012 at 12:00 PM by Travis Hawks

The party’s over.

For high score chasers with a cold, calculating appreciation of music.

Probably the worst part of playing alto sax in middle school band (besides having to play on braces-tightening days) was rhythm practice.  If you’re not familiar, there are entire books of rhythms written out – no notes, just the rhythms – which kids have to sit and verbalize.  “Ta ta tee tee tee tee rest ta-a-a-a-a tee tee tee tee ta ta” can be heard coming from the mouths of dreary band halls across the country as kids prepare for that next chair test or concert.   This despised exercise is what is at the core of Rock Band Blitz, and somehow they almost made it fun. 

It’s no real surprise that the sense of feeling like you’re part of a band disappeared when Rock Band lost its wannabe instruments and moved everything over to the standard controller.  Sadly, you also often lose a sense of connection to the music.  Yes, a certain element is the lack of plastic imagination aids, but the disconnect is primarily due to the minimal button inputs and any sensation that you’re actually involved.  The game is designed to have those familiar colored highways coming your way waiting for you to nail the buttons at just the right time.  In Rock Band Blitz, you only use two buttons to do this, with left and right squares rolling your way on each track.  You can switch between instruments at any time, but all use the same mode of input and use the exact same “skills” – alternating between those two buttons at all times.  The goal of the game, though, is to get so good at pressing those buttons -- while also leveraging a few strategies and power ups – that you eventually top the leader boards.

Sure, there was always a bit of score chasing and striving for perfection in every other Rock Band and Guitar Hero game, but that is the only purpose behind Rock Band Blitz.  Where those previous mainline franchises fulfilled your fantasies of being a musician, Rock Band Blitz just plops you down on your couch battling against your friends list.   Where the plastic instrument games made for a great activity at a party, Rock Band Blitz’s only social element requires you to log on to Facebook and try to beat your friends’ scores there.  All of that aside, though, the game largely does what it set out to do and provides an addictive way to keep increasing your score with tons of licensed tracks.

Harmonix has learned a few things from games like Call of Duty by slowly bleeding out small rewards and power ups to you the more you play.  You can’t help but try out a few more songs or replay that last tune to get a better score so that you can unlock a new power up that will help your scores get even higher.  Before starting each song, you are allowed to pick three power ups from those you have unlocked.  They all function in different ways, from the simple ones (like the drum track being worth more points) to the downright goofy (a giant pinball bouncing around the tracks and collecting points for the notes it runs over).  Along with those power ups, you’ll also be working to increase score multipliers for each track as you go.  Working to keep each multiplier as high as possible pays off because you’ll hit markers that allow the cap to shift up (but only so much as your lowest multiplier will allow). 

Presumably, with much practice and study, the ultimate combination of three power ups for a particular song could be used with a perfected sequence of button presses and track changes to get an amazing score.  Getting to this point would require you to unlock all of the power ups, play the song repeatedly to discover the best methods to use, and practice enough to get the rhythms themselves down pat. If this sounds fun to you, perhaps you will get a huge kick out of Rock Band Blitz.  As someone who has played old arcade games thousands of times to try and get better scores, I just couldn’t find myself compelled to hack away at any tracks in Blitz more than a couple of times. 

After beating a few of my friends list competitors on enough songs and after feeling satisfied with those accomplishments, I decided to check out the achievements.  Normally, I’d just ignore this aspect of a game, but it’s worth mentioning that many of the achievements require you to own tracks outside of the included twenty five.  Encouraging people to buy more songs is expected, I mean the whole game is probably designed to stretch out the life of these licensing agreements signed for a game genre that went in the tour bus toilet a few years back. Requiring additional purchases to get the achievements, though, is just bad form.  After trolling through those money-hungry achievements, I decided that my seven- to twelve-thousandth worldwide ranking on the included songs just wasn’t high enough.  So I tried a huge cop-out and picked a song from the expanded library and BAM! I was in six hundredth place.  Never have I gained so much from Cutting Crew’s “(I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight.”

It’s unfortunate that the entire rhythm game juggernaut has found itself demoted to this niche downloadable title.  After all those years at the top of the charts and all of those huge boxes filling up retail space, Rock Band Blitz doesn’t rekindle what made earlier Rock Band games so great.  Gone is the make believe, the party, and the rocking out – all replaced with a hollow hunt for more points. For those with broken pretend instruments and a desire to turn music into a cold rote exercise, Blitz will probably be satisfying.  For the rest of the world that just wants to jam, there’s no need to spend your money on this aging rocker.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



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