There are plenty of rhythm games on the market so if you want to sell, you need to stand out. Harmonix did it spectacularly by throwing the much adored The Beatles into their Rock Band game. Activision fought back by taking the DJ decks and giving them the Fisher Price plastic instrument treatment. Games like Guitar Hero 5 have gone relatively unnoticed because they simply don’t bring anything new to the table. With Lego Rock Band, Traveller’s Tales are hoping that their unique visual style and brand of humour is enough to win over the crowd.
It is clear from the start this is not aimed at the hardcore Rock Band player such as myself who once took a whole afternoon off, laid out snacks around me and drink to finish the Endless Set-list with a group of friends. After a few drinks, it descended into chaos so we never completed it, but Lego Rock Band is clearly not aimed at this sort of crowd. It does have a very family friendly atmosphere to it, with the existence of Super Easy mode for those who really have no clue what to do.
I won’t bore you with the look at the gameplay because it is pretty much the same as any other Rock Band game. You have a guitar, bass, drums and vocals and you have to hit the bricks on screen in time. There is no real significant difference except for the Lego Recovery Mode in which, if you fail, you need to hit a series of notes in order to get back into the game. It doesn’t really achieve much in comparison to the standard way of recovering teammates; by sacrificing your Overdrive.
But there is something about Lego Rock Band that feels disconnected. I’m not sure if it’s the look of the game or the family friendly atmosphere but it just doesn’t feel right. The note charts for the tracks don’t seem to fit the song that is playing at times and is definitely off putting.
The main aspect of Lego Rock Band is the Story Mode in which you take your little brick characters from rags to riches, buying planes, boats and vans on your way. The main hub is the Rock Den. This can be customised any way you please, although it is ultimately pointless as it adds very little. You then go through different venues playing songs and unlocking new venues. This is where my first problem arises. The presentation of the menus is just too sluggish. The transition from room to room is just so slow and picking songs is too. I much prefered the World Tour map in Rock Band 2 where it was much simpler to just flick through, find the right venue and get on your way. Here it’s a chore.
Another thing I really, really dislike is the fact that, on many occasions, you have to replay the same songs over and over again or be forced to play a song you really don’t want to play. On several occasions, I found myself having to play the same Good Charlotte song within 3 gigs in a row. I really dislike Good Charlotte so this was like the ultimate form of torture for me.
One redeeming feature is the Rock Challenge. This basically takes a context sensitive song to the venue you’re playing in and essentially turns it into a music video. For instance, my personal favourite challenge is the Ghostbusters challenge in which your band have to chase ghosts from a mansion. The better you play, the more the video progresses. Another cool one is The Hives, where you have to demolish a building to the song “Tick Tick…Boom!”. As you play, certain parts of the song will be linked to a great explosion which is pretty satisfying when pulled off.
The track list is, well, not very good. At all. From my perspective anyway, but I still think that it’s a pretty haphazard. You have the crowd-pleasers like “Ghostbusters”, “Kung Fu Fighting” and “We Are The Champions” but then there are also tracks by Counting Crows, Blink 182 and Good Charlotte which don’t seem to fit in with the rest of the songs. It also always seems that it is the crap songs that always come up in the gigs. There is the nice option of playing any DLC you have, although the choice of DLC is limited unfortunately.
It seems as though Lego Rock Band is just a shiny front. It doesn’t feel like a Rock Band game which is a great disappointment. The family feel doesn’t seem to come through well enough either. The Super Easy mode is a nice addition but kids will probably be bored by the poorly thought out set-list. It seems that the Lego style is just a gimmick to attract the punters and doesn’t really add very much which couldn’t work effectively in another title. For those about to rock, pick something else.