Rock Band Unplugged Review


If you've ever played the PS2 games Frequency or Amplitude, you'll recognize where Harmonix looked for inspiration in taking Rock Band mobile. Since Harmonix created both of those games, in a way they've come full circle since their early efforts in creating the musical rhythm game genre. The Frequency/Amplitude style gameplay works well for a portable Rock Band, although it's hard to compensate for the fact that you're no longer rocking out on fake drums and plastic guitars.

If you've played a Guitar Hero or Rock Band game before, than the basics of the gameplay will be pretty familiar to you. Each instrument is represented by a track on the screen on which notes are represented by colored bars. As the music plays the notes scroll towards you and if you press the corresponding button when the note reaches he end of the track then you'll play the note. The lack of guitar controllers, drums, or a mic in the game means that playing guitar, bass, and drums, as well as singing the vocals, are done using the same four buttons: left, up, triangle, and circle. It's these buttons that correspond to the four possible notes on each instrument tracks, and sustained notes are played by holding the button down and chords by pressing or holding a combination of these buttons corresponding to the notes in the chord. There are four difficulty levels in the game, and everyone should be able to play the game on its easiest setting. The difficulty ramps up pretty quickly as you play at each successively higher level, with more notes added to each song and the frequency of chords increased, so there's plenty of challenge in the game for those who want to put their fast fingers to the test.

At this point you may be wondering how you can play as the entire band in a single player game. Here's where the Frequency/Amplitude style play comes in. The four music tracks (lead guitar, bass guitar, drums, and vocals) are all present just as they are in the console version of the game, and you can jump between the instrument tracks by using the shoulder triggers. While you've got a track selected, you'll play the corresponding notes for that instrument. You'll also see a section of the track highlighted. Play all of the notes within a highlighted section and the instrument will play on its own for a bit and you can jump to another track to refresh one of the other instruments. Miss a note and the highlighted section gets pushed back up the track and you'll need to start the section all over again. The goal is to keep each of the tracks playing throughout the song by jumping back and forth between them as needed without letting one of the tracks fail. Like in the console version, you can revive a failed instrument twice during the course of a song but on the third failure it's all over for the entire band. It pays to listen closely to the music because when an instrument begins to fail you'll hear its track begin to fade out of the song. On the flipside, when you complete a sequence and set off a track the music crescendos and the power the track adds to the song is noticeable. It's a pretty cool effect and it definitely adds something to the game.