August 29, 2012

On the Road Again

Lasting First Impressions of Rock Band Blitz

Developed by Harmonix

RockBand Blitz boxart» Wait a second. Rock Band without instruments? Has Harmonix lost it after releasing Rock Band 3 nearly two years ago?  Quite the opposite, actually.  Unlike some previous music genre giants, Harmonix is still busy keeping music alive and well in our gaming universe and their latest entry, Rock Band Blitz, is proof of this.  Building on the already laid foundation of previous Rock Band games, Rock Band Blitz brings the excitements of a full band experience into the player’s hands as a controller-based game.  On top of that, the current library of over 3,500 Rock Band songs are compatible with this new game.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from Rock Band Blitz before taking it for our usual one hour ride, and I sure wasn’t ready for it either.  Let’s see how it panned out.

Rock Band Blitz is presented on a musical note highway much the same as you’d expect to see in Rock Band except that all tracks play simultaneously and the player controls any instrument in any order during the course of the song. Every note successfully played on an instrument contributes towards a bonus multiplier for that track. For the ultimate score, it is necessary to level up every track in the song and not spend all the time on only one track.  Players will constantly be switching back and forth through each instrument track to achieve the best score possible.  The controls for this gameplay are very straight forward and several different controller configurations are possible.  The default is to use either the left stick or thumbpad for all left side notes (each track has only a left and right note to play in rhythm), and either the right stick or A button (on XBOX) for the right side notes.  Pressing the left or right triggers will move the focus from track to track.  Very easy concept, but difficult to master.  Personally, I found this default controller setting a little unnatural and opted to change it to using the left/right triggers to play the notes and the sticks to move the track selection.  If this sounds a bit complicated, you’re not alone. I felt a little overwhelmed at first as I played through the tutorial and it wasn’t until I played a few songs that I truly understood the game and how to play. Once I did, however, it was very hard to put down.

RBBlitz screen 1

Every song played nets both cred and coins.  Cred is your XP and will unlock new power-ups to be used during songs.  Coins are the in-game currency for using these power-ups which include such things as Point Doubler, earning double the points for every note played, and Bandmate which will auto-play the track it is deployed on.  Rock Band Blitz plays host to dozens of power-ups to help boost your score and beat your friends.

Speaking of friends, if you think you’re the best among your friends, you can put your confidence to the test and compete against them in Score Wars.  Once initiated, you and your friend will have three days to achieve the best score on a particular song with the winner netting quite a profit of XP and coins.  Rock Band Blitz is fast paced and challenging so don’t expect to 5-star any songs right away. The most I received during my playtime was 3 stars. Further playing, more XP and the proper use of power-ups will be required to net yourself the best score.

RBBlitz screen 2

I was very surprised at how well Harmonix has translated their core Rock Band experience into a simple but new challenge to be played solely on a controller (instruments will not work in this game).  The game seems to be very busy and confusing when first beginning play, but practice will definitely make perfect and a core understanding of the concepts will come quickly.  The only thing I found not ideal in the game was the placement of the bonus multiplier found on the left side of the screen.  It felt a little too far out of the way when trying to concentrate on playing notes.  Constantly keeping an eye on it to make sure all tracks were leveling up inherently caused me to miss some notes on the highway.  Perhaps placing each individual track’s bonus number on the track itself would alleviate this, but it’s definitely not a game-breaking issue. Or perhaps I’m just too much of a perfectionist and hate missing notes.  After all, I have to beat all my friends, right?

Ultimately, Rock Band Blitz is a must-have game for any Rock Band fan, and who isn’t?  All your previously downloaded songs will work with Blitz and it even gives you a bonus 25 free songs as soon as you launch it. How much better can it get?  Not much, really. It’s fun, it’s addictive, and it is definitely worth your time. So put away those plastic instruments and get back on the road again with Rock Band Blitz.

Harmonix, I gave you an hour and I am IMPRESSED.

About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.



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