reviewed on PSP
Another portable disaster?
When Rock Band was released back in 2005 it kick started a whole new era of rhythm games in your home. With Guitar Hero still using only the guitar controller, Rock Band introduced drums and mic to the genre. This brought a whole new meaning to the music genre and spawned many copycats, but none could do it better than Rock Band.
Now that Rock Band has hit the portable scene you just beg to wonder what quality the game has, and how could a game using instruments become so wonderfully executed with four buttons? Well, a disaster Unplugged is not and the following paragraphs shall prove this to you.
In short, Unplugged does some things really well with the gameplay, but somehow manages to turns around and make the game Not Fun at the same time. Hold on to your desk, handrail, controller, because you have to play all instruments at the same time. Yes: Bass, guitar, drums and mic all at the same time. I know Backbone are a bunch of jerks, but it's not as difficult as you might think. You see all four tracks on screen (yes singing is now a regular track) and when one starts coming down you play the phrase then switch to the next phrase using L or R. Phrases are silver borders around a certain amount of notes (each difficulty makes you play more in a phrase). If you play well enough you'll get to go to the next phrase, but be fast! If you don't switch right away, the phrase box will move up the track and you must play all the darkened notes until you get there. In the mean time, other tracks are coming down around you, bringing down your crowd meter - and this last point is what makes the game not so fun.
When you're actually playing the game you use the left D-pad (red), up D-pad (yellow), triangle (green) and circle (blue) (DJ Max Portable vets will already have this down pat). As you can see there is no orange present since the game only uses four buttons, but don't let this misguide you into thinking the game is easy because it is far from that. To make the game a tad easier on recognizing what buttons to hit together, the orange bar that was used for the kick pedal on the drums now ties notes that are apart from each other. This helps identify when to hit two notes simultaneously and thus makes it a bit easier when all these little notes are whizzing by. Overdrive (or Star Power) is still the same, and can be activated with the X button, but having to perfectly play every phrase can make gaining Overdrive a little hard.
One other thing that really makes playing this game somewhat annoying is the fact that instruments drop out if you leave the track alone for too long. I don't mean drop out as in failing (you can save the tracks by using overdrive), but in an audio sense. This is supposed to be an audio aid/cue to go to that instrument and play the phrase, but it just makes the song sound really bad.
Content and modes
One major disappointment is that Unplugged does not have any multiplayer what-so-ever. Yes, I know, I know - it's alright, you can stop crying now. I am clueless as to why this decision was made, because multiplayer is what really made Rock Band shine and there's no excuse not to have it in the PSP version. Besides the missing multiplayer, the game is really vanilla in modes, as it includes only your Band World Tour, Quickplay, and Training; oh and Options if you really like that. One request that Unplugged finally responded to was the ability to customize everyone in your band instead of just the musician you are currently playing.
The customization is actually really shallow compared to the console versions of the game since you can't choose clothing categories (Goth, Punk, Metal etc.), but only a few clothes for your torso, bottoms, and shoes. There aren't as many accessories or even hair and make-up items, but this is OK since the game doesn't look that great anyways (more on this later).
When you start your band you can name it, pick a logo (yeah you can't even make one!), name your musicians, pick from some generic clothing, hair, make-up and your set. I see that Backbone had the whole "portability" thing in mind so you can whip up a band and go, but some people actually see customization (like myself) as main part of the game and can really bring the game to life with your creations.
No Pros and Cons at this time