In play

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

In today's video game market, rhythm games are at the forefront. With predecessors like Dance Dance Revolution and Karaoke Revolution paving the way, every developer is trying to tap into the music game market.

Today, Guitar Hero and Rock Band are the big two, flooding the market with games, downloadable songs, instrument controllers, clothing, and more. With the proven success of music games through GH and RB, many developers are trying to dive into the market with games of their own.

The rhythm game market lately has seen it's influx of new titles with most being absolutely terrible with terrible song lists and covers, poor gameplay and incompatibility with instrument controllers that most music game players already own.

Another problem with the music game industry is that's its pretty expensive to get started. For a game bundle with one guitar controller, you're looking at around $90. Extra guitars cost upwards of $50, and Guitar Hero World Tour or Rock Band 1 or 2 complete bundles cost near $200. We're not even going to get into the price for downloadable songs. So with all these factors in play, Disney Interactive has come up with a pretty decent solution.

Ultimate Band (Wii) ESRB Rated E for Everyone $49.99

Take the role of a group of teen characters in a rock band as you fight your way through local shows in the hopes of winning a battle of the bands contest and make the big time. You follow the band through small venues on a local stage and eventually start rocking out in front of thousands of local fans.

As I said before, guitar and drum controllers are expensive. With Ultimate Band, your Wii remote and nunchuk serve as your instrument using flicks and spins. The game features over 30 popular songs in cover versions, and it's a pretty solid song list. But let's go back to the important part, the controls.

Four instruments are represented in Ultimate Band: guitar, bass, drums and vocals. Each instrument is played using the Wii remote and nunchuck with by flicking the controllers like drumsticks or strumming notes like a guitar. The only real weak instrument is vocals where you're not actually singing, but instead your controllers imitate what a rock and roll star would be doing with the microphone/microphone stand. Along with strumming and drumming, the game focuses on the rock star side by having you do special moves with your controllers by adding things like twirling your drumsticks, windmill strums on the guitar and punches and claps on vocals.

Each instrument has three different difficulty levels: easy, normal and hard. The difficulties obviously add notes but with the guitar and bass in particular you have to use the C and Z buttons on the nunchuck to change notes before strumming.

One of my favorite features in the game is Grandstanding. Once you hit so many notes and fill the grandstanding meter, you activate it using the A button. You're then given a sequence of movements with your controllers where you have to hold a certain pose for around 2 seconds. These imitate classic rocker poses and add a huge boost to your score.

My son's favorite part of the game though is the fact that during your performances certain things happen on stage based on your score, including things like walls crumbling down due to speaker vibration, amusement park rides starting up in the background, and other fun things to keep you excited about playing better.

The game is also packed with other features that keep you playing, such as trophies for completing certain challenges in the game, customizable outfits and instruments for your characters. All in all, this is a pretty solid showing in the music game genre for a very reasonable price.

Game to avoid: The DS version of Ultimate Band. Terrible controls, terrible graphics, choppy gameplay and choppy sound make this an absolutely terrible handheld.