A fun music game that won't steal the show.
It's good to see Activision expanding its Guitar Hero franchise for Nintendo DS, rather than put on the same rock show year after year. Band Hero not only brings back the guitar-playing system from previous games, but also gives you the option to play drums (using a new skin that slips over your handheld) and sing (through the DS' built-in microphone). However, while the game excels in some areas, it still underperforms.
First, there's the set list. While there are a few standout songs worth playing (like the Kaiser Chiefs' "I Predict a Riot" and the Foo Fighters' "Monkey Wrench"), most of them get old quick. "Excuse Me Mister" by No Doubt is hard to keep up with (especially on vocals), and there are a number of superior Blink 182 songs to choose from, instead of the average "First Date". There are 30 selections, so you're bound to find a couple of favorites, but more rock-worthy songs would've been appreciated.
Second, there's the new drum skin. Like the guitar peripheral that plugs into your system, this takes getting used to. You'll need to hit drum pads located on the left and the right of the system, but they overlap one another, meaning that you'll constantly hit the wrong ones, even if you don't intend to. Fortunately, you can get rid of it, as the game features control modifications. It's much simpler that way.
However, Activision really screwed up with the Fan Requests. Here, you can enter 50 specific fan request challenges, similar to the ones featured in the previous Guitar Hero games. The only problem is that, in order to access them, you'll need a Nintendo Wii and a copy of Band Hero. The menu screen clearly shows the Fan Request option available, but you can't play any of them without hooking up to it. It's a cheap move, especially to those who can't afford more than one console.
Aside from those problems, Band Hero has a lot to offer. The gameplay is fun, provided you can get used to the guitar plug-in peripheral. You still grip the system as you would a guitar, with your fingers handling the fret buttons and your stylus strumming on-screen strings. It's fun, but your hand will cramp up. On the bright side, you can switch to singing, which works remarkably well with the DS microphone. We didn't have any problems capturing our pitch for each song. The optional drumming system works great, too.
In addition, Band Hero has fun mini-games that break up the monotony. Midway through a performance, you may have to keep someone's balance following a stage dive, or engage in a high-five frenzy with your fans. (Just be careful, though, or you might slap a baby.) These touch-screen games keep you on your toes, even if you feel like you aced the song.
Although the game doesn't have a dedicated career mode (you just collect cash and play gigs), there is a great multiplayer component. Other players can join locally and jam, using a number of instruments. Activision really gets this part of the game right, as you feel like you're actually performing, rather than trying to pretend-jam with a fake guitar.
As far as presentation goes, Band Hero looks similar to other music games. It's easy to keep track of what notes come your way, no matter what position of the band you're in. The visuals look good, with fans jumping about and band mates doing their thing. As for the songs, they sound good for DS quality, even though there are some we don't care to hear again. (We're talking to you, "Let's Get It Started".)
One minor note, though. Activision still hasn't found an alternative solution for Nintendo DSi users. That means if you want to play Band Hero, you can, but you'll have to stick with alternative drums and singing. There's no way for you to plug in the guitar peripheral. C'mon, team. Figure something out.
Even though Band Hero is still a strong musical performer, its problems keep it from stealing the show. Next time around, Activision needs to make the Fan Requests available right from the get-go, along with a Career Mode and a song list that won't leave us yawning. Fortunately, it doesn't look like it will fade anytime soon, so there's room for improvement for Band Hero 2.
What's Hot: A few decent songs (such as
What's Not: Some dull songs, playing drums with the add-on skin is difficult, you can't access Fan Requests without the Wii version of the game, guitar playing still becomes uncomfortable over time, still no DSi support for the guitar peripheral, no career mode.