Rock Band the Second

Last year I was introduced to the whole ‘plastic instruments games’ genre as dominated these days by Guitar Hero and Rock Band. I’d sniffed haughtily and declared them “silly” many times before taking the plunge and, of course, having the time of my life playing. But as with everything else I get involved with, the infatuation passed. I kept downloading any freebie songs and things like that, but never got around to playing them.

Today the PS3 version of Rock Band 2 came out (I play these games on my PS3…I have a 360 but don’t trust the hardware very much, having had to send mine back for repair twice already). We were out and about doing chores and stopped for lunch and I had a beer which lubricated my purse strings enough that before I knew it, I’d picked it up, even though there was no budget for it. 🙁

Tonight I booted it up and the joy came flooding back in, buyer’s remorse flew out the window, and that silly grin reappeared on my face. I almost always play alone, and one of the nice things about Rock Band 2 is that they included some RB1 “band only” features for solo players in #2. Instead of flat playlists to work through, you now have the “world tour” where you have to earn money and gain fans and fames enough to work your way to bigger and bigger venues. It makes the game feel more like a game, which I like. But you can still set up your own sets and play those if you like.

There’s a Battle of the Bands feature which lets you match scores against other (basically anonymous) bands, and then there’s a series of challenges… basically a whole lot “more” than what RB 1 had.

Make no mistake, the basic mechanics are the same (why mess with a good thing, right?). The presentation is sharper and things like guitar solos seem more tailored to the music that’s playing. I spent the $5 to get an “Import License” for the RB 1 songs, which do take up 1.5 gigs of space (that would be a big deal on my 360 but the PS3 has a 60 gig hard drive).

There’s still a few things I’d like to see: I’d like to create characters to fill out the rest of my band, for instance, and I don’t *think* you can do that right now. I mean just for aesthetics. I hate it when my lead guitarist is all decked out in punk-ish threads and ends up in a Gwar-themed band, for instance. Actually it’d be pretty cool if you could play any character in a band at different times, now that I think about it. But I think the “band leader” always has to be present.

Also when you create your own sets, there can be some weirdness. I had some rock dude singing Belinda Carlisle’s vocals in “We Got the Beat” during one set. But since the band doesn’t change across the songs in a set, I guess that’s as much my fault as the game’s. And really this is nit-picky stuff.

I played for like two hours so this is NOT a review of the game. But my initial reaction has been really positive. If you enjoyed Rock Band I can’t see any reason why you won’t love Rock Band 2 as well. And if you’ve never tried one of these games, well, time’s awasting. They’re an awfully good time. Just be careful who is around. Apparently I sang every lyric of “Psycho Killer” while I was playing through it, loud enough to be heard by others. Much teasing ensued.

When I was younger music was a *huge* part of my life (as it is for many young people) but the older I got, the less I listened. What I love about Rock Band and Guitar Hero is that it gets me back to listening to music (while “playing” it) and in fact often hearing it in new ways. Yeah, they’re “toy” instruments but still these games feel like they have a bit more meaning than your typical shoot-em-up.