One of the world's biggest music games comes to the iPhone.
It was only a matter of time before a holy union between the iPhone/iPod Touch and the Rock Band franchise took place, and earlier this week, it became reality. The portable version of the hit music series holds up well, with a number of instruments, modes and songs to choose from. However, a few things keep it from stealing the show.
First, the interface is different from previous versions. You won't hook up an oversized peripheral. Instead, you'll use the touch screen to pound away on the drums or strum your guitar chords. Vocals also changed. Instead of singing into your iPhone (which would look ridiculous), you hit vocal chords that scroll across the screen. Through each song, you'll run into power sections. Complete all the notes in these sections and you'll accumulate Star Power, which multiplies your score.
For the most part, the game plays great; it works in a similar fashion to the Tap Tap games. However, it's not perfect. On the hardest difficulty, the note markers run by so quickly that you'll miss several of them, no matter how good you are. Furthermore, the Star Activation system interrupts play. To start it up, you'll need to take your hand off the rhythm buttons for a quick second and shake your phone. It's not impossible to get used to, but you'll miss notes in the process.
Twenty songs are available, and you can add ten others through five two-packs for a dollar apiece. That's a small price to pay, considering the two-buck price tag Rock Band songs usually go for. The variety isn't bad, with selections from George Thorogood and the Destroyers, the Smashing Pumpkins, Motorhead and others. However, all of the songs were recycled from previous releases. Harmonix didn't bother to dig up some exclusives for the iPhone crowd. Furthermore, the songs aren't of the highest quality. They're recorded in an AAC format, and while they don't sound horrific, you'll notice enough difference between them and your normal MP3s.
Rock Band's graphics really shine, though. The scrolling interface is familiar and easy to see, and even the smaller things, like how the screen lights up after activating Star Power, and the little ridges along the scrolling track, look superb. There are performers still jamming in the background, although their animations are minimal compared to other versions. It's not that big a deal, though.
This portable rendition of the game has modes aplenty. You can rock out to a more condensed version of the World Tour, making stops at different venues while unlocking additional songs. You can also quick play through any songs in your play list, in case you need practice. The multiplayer component is also intact, as you can jam with friends nearby through Live Bluetooth. Up to four people can take part in one song, which adds to the fun.
There is a drawback, though. You can't create your own custom rocker. Only the generic rock models appear throughout the game. The lack of this feature isn't quite a showstopper, but it does take away a personal touch.
Despite the short song list, quirky gameplay (particularly on higher difficulty) and no dedicated create-a-rock-star mode, Rock Band still makes an acceptable debut on the iPhone. The multiplayer fun is still there, the musical instruments are fun to play with (even vocals, despite not being able to sing) and there are enough songs to find a favorite or two. This is one act you definitely won't mind taking on the road.
What's Hot: Excellent options both solo and with friends, graphics looks great, newly implemented vocal interface works better than expected, online music store is easy to use.
What's Not: No create-a-rocker mode, poor sound quality compared to other Rock Band games, only 20 songs available at first, you'll miss quite a few notes on Hard, Star Power activation could be easier.