Guitar Hero Review

Last night I stayed up half the night rocking out, crawled into bed with aching fingers, slept through my alarm, and shuffled off to work as guitar riffs played endlessly through my head. Thanks to Guitar Hero I had become a rock and roll star. Well, minus the groupies and hangover that is.

Guitar Hero is basically a rhythm game that bears a very strong resemblance to Amplitude, which is no surprise since the same developer is responsible for both games. However neither Amplitude nor its predecessor Frequency came with a guitar – a freakin’ guitar, man! OK, well it’s not exactly a real guitar, but rather a guitar-shaped controller with five fret buttons (the handle part of a guitar) and a “strum” switch where your fingers would stroke the strings of a real guitar. It even comes with a whammy bar – the little stick on a guitar that you can move to add a “wa-wa” sound to your notes. It’s not as big as an actual guitar, but at least it’s bigger than a ukulele. To be honest, the first time I played the game I felt like a dork standing in front of my TV strapped to a plastic guitar. That changed pretty quickly as I was soon turned into a rock god playing a sold out show in my living room…

The basics of the game are pretty straight forward. The center of the screen is dominated by a fret bar viewed from the end. As the music plays, color-coded notes come scrolling towards you down the fret bar. As the notes reach the bottom of the screen they pass over little targets and your job is to hit the strum switch just as the note hits the target while holding down the correspondingly colored fret button. Time it right and you’ll play the note, miss it and your disappointed audience will hear a wimpy plink instead of a righteous riff.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well at first it’s not that hard. The game does a great job of progressively increasing the difficulty so that beginners won’t be frustrated and rock gods will be challenged. At first the songs will just send notes that are one of three different colors to be played one at a time. You’ll then progress to holding notes and even to playing two notes at a time to produce chords. Then the fourth note color will begin to show up, and then the fifth. Suddenly you have five notes to play and only four fingers with which to press buttons, and that thumb that you’ve worked so hard to turn into a game-controlling tool by using it while playing countless hours of games is relegated to the new duty of simply holding the guitar. Yeah, it gets challenging if you haven’t been playing a lot of games with your pinky lately – or ever.

As you play the game, the controller will feel less and less like one and more like a guitar. When the notes come quickly as they can during a hard-rocking solo, your hand will be moving up and down the fret bar and you’ll be stroking the strum bar as if it was six metal strings. It’s hard not to really get into the act and start to gyrate with killer rock moves as you play. I dare you to try and play the game while sitting motionless and slumped back into your couch cushions.