Hi. My name is Nick and I am not a musician… and that's okay. I am slowly learning to live with this fact. And something that has helped me ease into the mindset that I will never play at the Hollywood Bowl on a particularly gorgeous sunset evening has been the games by Harmonix.
Since the first Guitar Hero, I came to terms with the fact that I was a terrible musician; not only in the real world, but the digital one as well. Guitars and guitar-like peripherals are not my friends, and I know that now. And the world that Harmonix created with the Rock Band games was something so foreign to the gamer kid that grew up with a controller — and not an instrument — in his hands. Don't get me wrong: it was fun, but an adjustment. If only there were a rhythm game in which I could play all my favorite songs from some of my favorite artists while still grasping that controller. Well, folks, Harmonix has done just that!
Rock Band Blitz is — without a doubt — a Rock Band game. But rather than buying a multitude of instrument peripherals to get through Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," all one needs is their trusty Xbox 360 or PS3 controller and a song in their heart (song in your heart not required, but it might help). The game plays less like your typical Rock Band game and more like Harmonix games of old — FreQuency and Amplitude — or other Arcade titles like Boom Boom Rocket. Unlike previous Rock Band titles, you do not have five keys or frets to press to hit your notes. In this game, you merely have two: left and right. To activate one, just move a thumbstick on the corresponding side of your controller or press the D-pad for "left" and A button for "right". As the player, you have the same instrument tracks as you would on other Rock Band games (guitar, bass, drums, vocals and keyboard) and you have the ability to move amongst them all throughout the song. Your objective is to bring up the multiplier on all instrument tracks, get a plethora of points which will, in turn, get you "Blitz Cred" and coins.
"Blitz Cred" and coins, you say? Yes, that's what I said. Rock Band Blitz introduces an economy to the Rock Band canon. Rather than gaining fans for your band, you gain "Blitz Cred", which is like experience points (XP) in your typical RPG. With your "Cred", you unlock different power-ups to use in-song and increase your point total. And with each song, you also get coins. The coins are spent to use your power-ups with each song. Since each power-up works on a pay-per-use basis, you'll want to be sure to collect those coins like you were Mario with a bad Fire Flower habit.
But when it comes right down to it, what matters is how this all works for one's enjoyment. Let's just say: it works! Harmonix proves that they can still make a great rhythm game without the gimmicks of peripherals or Kinect. The one qualm that I may have with this game is that there is no multiplayer. But I must reiterate, this is still a Rock Band game.
With Rock Band 3, Harmonix was trying to get their digital musicians to take the game outside their console and onto the web by linking your Xbox gamertag to a user account on their website. My guess is that it was not as successful as they had hoped. With this outing, they've gone right to the heart of social Internet interaction: Facebook. Launching along with Blitz is Rock Band World, a Facebook app that allows you to track your progress in Rock Band 3 and Rock Band Blitz, check out your friends' scores, set "Goals" for yourself in Rock Band 3 and, while you may be unable to rock on with your friends in the same room or with whoever you can find on Xbox LIVE or PSN, you can still challenge a friend to a good, ol' fashioned game of "Who's Better?" in Rock Band Blitz with "Score War". Go on Rock Band World, pick a friend, pick a song and you both have a set time to play your hearts out until the clock stops and a champion is deemed. If you get the highest point total, you get a whole lotta "Cred" and coins. If you do not, you get a bit of "Cred" and coins. Either way, it's a win. While tying it to Facebook could seem gimmicky in its own right, it uses a better system than either Microsoft or Sony has to reach your friends that have the game. Plus, "Score War" adds a nice little '90s arcade touch to Blitz that is quite enjoyable. All the winner needs is the chance to have their three text characters of choice dominate that top spot on their friend's Facebook wall.
And what of content? Well, the game comes with twenty-five tracks from 25 different artists, including Barenaked Ladies, Elton John, Kool & the Gang, Queen and Soundgarden. But my personal favorite is probably Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl." No, I don't know why. Maybe because it has a pretty cool solo? Or maybe it is because I can put it into Rock Band 3 and sing my heart out? That's right: all the songs carry over to Rock Band 3! Not only that, but all of your songs from previous Rock Band games (with exception to The Beatles: Rock Band and Rock Band 3), the Rock Band music store and Rock Band Network are all playable in Rock Band Blitz. No worries, you need not be tied solely to those 25 tracks. Those other 3,000+ songs are all available, too. There is also a "Recommended" tab in the game that suggests what you should play next based on a few different factors like earning more stars on a song, trying a song you have not played, trying a song from the Music Store based on what you have already played or even suggesting you challenge someone to a "Score War." Do I want to kick my editor's ass playing Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger"? Hell yes, I do!
All these songs, new modes and all this fun for a mere $15! To be candid, I was not looking forward to Rock Band Blitz. I enjoyed Harmonix's previous Rock Band games and have even been known to bust a move or two in Dance Central, but it manages to do everything I thought it could not. How could a peripheral-less Rock Band game feel like a Rock Band game? The answer is simple: stellar game design and a development studio that is aware of both their successes and their faults. This game is a testament to the folks over at Harmonix Music.
So, if you are a member of your very own Rock Band, there is nothing stopping you from trying this out. If you have never been all that spectacular with all those peripherals, this may be the game to drop 1200 MS points on. Or, if like me, you ever wondered why you couldn't just play Rock Band with your controller — even though the key colors match the colors on your Xbox 360 remote — wonder no more, sir and/or madam. Wonder no more.
Nick Boisson grew up on television, Woody Allen, video games, Hardy Boys mysteries and DC comic books, with the occasional Spider-Man issue thrown in for good measure. He currently roams the rainy streets of Miami, Florida, looking for a nice tie, a woman that gets him, and the windbreaker he lost when he was eight. He sometimes writes things down on Twitter at @nitroslick.