In play

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent
Columbus Parent Magazine

Well, the bad thing about Guitar Hero and Rock Band is that they just keep coming out with new games that we just have to pick up (no fair-weather fans here!). Title after title, new games just keep popping up on the shelves.

In the last two weeks or so, a new title has come out from each of the series (Rock Band and Guitar Hero), and I'm going to talk about them both. Hopefully, if you're like us in your purchasing habits, you might be able to leave these two titles on the shelf.

Rock Band Unplugged (PSP) Rated T for Teen

Much Like Guitar Hero did for the DS, Rock Band has now gone portable with its newest title available only on the PSP. The game includes over 40 of the best songs from the console versions of Rock Band and also many more songs are available for purchase and download through the Playstation Store.

So, how's it work? Well, if you know your Rock Band interface, you know there are four colored buttons which correspond with the buttons on the guitar neck or on the drum head. When the notes scroll down in Rock Band Unplugged, the colored buttons correspond with the UP and LEFT buttons on the D-pad, and the triangle and circle buttons on the button side. While playing ONE instrument this may get difficult, especially on some of the harder difficulty settings, but there's a kicker: You're now playing all FOUR instruments in a song!

That's right, you start a song on one instrument and you have a bar of notes. If you hit all the notes in a bar, the instrument will play itself for a while and you're then forced to tap the L or R buttons on top of the PSP to switch to a new instrument, which begins when you finish a bar on another instrument. Confused yet? I sure was!

Here's the dilemma: You're switching chorded guitar and bass notes, rhythmic drum beats and free-form notes set to the singer's voice, and you have to try to keep all of this straight in your head. Not to mention that if you miss one note in a bar, the instrument section you're playing won't complete and you'll be forced to keep playing until you do complete a bar of notes. So, while you're trying to finish this new bar, the other instruments of course start up and then you begin failing the song.

Now, once you finally get the hang of this new play style, you start to realize that you may never 5-star a song, considering you have to hit almost every note correctly in the entire song and even then you may not 5-star.

Add the fact that there's no multiplayer aspect, completely killing the idea that this is a "Band" game and you're left with something that is nearly too hard for anyone, and forces you to sit in a corner while jamming out as a one-man-band. But hey, at least the songs are good.

Guitar Hero: Smash Hits (PS2, PS3, Wii, 360) Rated T for Teen

Guitar Hero Smash Hits is the newest compilation from the Guitar Hero series of games and features 48 master recordings of songs that were previously released on other Guitar Hero games. My initial reaction was a sarcastic "whoopee," but I soon learned that these re-released songs are now playable by all instruments (vocals, guitar, bass, drums).

That's right, all of your favorite songs from Guitar Hero 1-3 and GH 80's are now fully band playable. Pretty exciting for some, although I really don't like the GH drum interface. My son does, so guess what I had to pick up?

Nothing is new in this title as the GH franchise has stopped adding cool stuff. They take all the old interfaces and throw new songs in. But if you're excited about playing "Bark at the Moon" or "Killer Queen" on drums, it's worth a look.

So there you have it, a new game from each of the leading rhythm game franchises and, in my opinion, two games that didn't really need to be released. But remember, 9/9/09: Beatles Rock Band. Put it on your calendar.

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