Rock Band Unplugged
Developer: Harmonix / Backbone Entertainment | Publisher: MTV Games | Release Date: 2009 | Genre: Rhythm Game | Website: Official Website
Seeing as Rock Band on console is a peripheral based music game that is played via plastic guitars, drums & microphones it is surprising that a PSP port was actually attempted. What is even more surprising is how well it actually plays. Instead of trying to emulate the console versions using gimmicks and peripherals (like the Nintendo DS version of Guitar Hero) this game instead focuses on the music. Notes scroll down the screen on the beat of the song and you simply press the corresponding button to play them. Some notes require a button to be held down instead of just pressed while others require more than one button to be pressed simultaneously but that’s about the extend of it. There is one catch though, to keep things from being too simple, you have to play four instruments at once!
What happens is that each song (master tracks by the way) is split into four segments, bass, drums, vocals and guitar. You can switch between the segments using the shoulder buttons and if you play well in a segment it will play by itself for a while allowing you to jump to another segment. It’s a lot simpler than it sounds and works quite well. When you start missing notes it can be easy to be overwhelmed, especially on the higher difficulty levels but overall it works like a charm. Everything from solos to overdrive is incorporated and the buttons are fully customizable. The experience might be closer to games like Frequency and Amplitude, but if it works this well, who cares.
With only about forty or so tracks Rock Band isn’t going to keep you playing for weeks and the baffling lack of multiplayer don’t do the game any favors either. The tracks are a good mix of classic rock as well as more modern stuff like Blink 182, The Offspring, Nine Inch Nails and Foo Fighters. If you’ve played any of the other Rock Band games on console you will have heard most of the tracks, but there will be new tracks that can be bought over the Playstation Network which will hopefully inject some freshness into the game. Playing through career mode can be a bit repetitive and some of the songs feel way too long, but this game is still perfect to while away a few idle minutes.
The graphics aren’t that important as you’ll hardly notice them while playing, but your whole band is fully customizable with clothes and gear that can be purchased. The audio is crisp and clear with individual instruments fading out of the track if you perform poorly on them. Just play with earphones to get the full effect. Rock Band: Unplugged is a great little game that could have been even better with some multi-player modes, but as it is I was pleasantly surprised.
*Review originally published in 2009.