Platform: 360 (Also PS3, Wii)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Publishers: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, MTV Games
Developers: Harmonix, Traveller’s Tales
Review by: Bill Jones
It’s easy to see the title of Lego Rock Band and think, “Wow, there are two things – a license (Lego) and genre (rhythm) – that are already oversaturated in the video game market. Why would anyone combine them?”
As far as Rock Band goes, it seems almost an unnecessary addition to the franchise, while for Lego it is a departure from the usual action-adventure gameplay associated with the brand. So, is Lego Rock Band an unnecessary combination of two properties? Probably. Is it still a hell of a lot of fun? Undeniably so.
As with any franchise (Star Wars, Indiana Jones) that bears the Lego skins, Lego Rock Band is incredibly cute, and despite the familiar Rock Band gameplay, the title takes on a character totally its own. The colored prompts are now Lego blocks, the blocky characters have voices (but only when they’re singing) and failing a song no longer requires a save from the band but rather a good recovery performance to pick up all the Lego studs dropped in the failure. Currency is studs, fans are Lego miniatures and new venues are accessed by unlockable Lego vehicles – from buses, to aquatic transport, to aeronautics to space teleportation. Oh yeah, aliens also play a prominent role in Lego Rock Band, too.
Players will also find changes to the hub. Aside from practicing, hiring new staff, buying merch or traveling to new areas, players can customize their living quarters as in other Lego installments, with special items earned throughout the game. Otherwise, those familiar with the traditional Rock Band experience will feel mostly at home.
Gameplay still consists of a series of songs or sets to choose from, hitting various instruments in time with the prompts of the songs on a variety of difficulties that can be changed song-by-song or set-by-set with 45 new tracks for the series. To make it a bit more family friendly, the game introduces a “Super Easy” mode, in which players can hit any pad or button in time, rather than the right ones, to get through a song. Players can also choose shorter versions of the songs for quicker playthroughs.
The biggest addition to gameplay are the “Rock Challenges,” which are used to clear certain stages and unlock the next vehicle. In this mode, there are no “Overdrive” bonuses, and players take turns playing phrasings rather than the entire song. The band shares the performance meter, requiring each member to keep things going on their turn. Meanwhile, elements of the story unfold in the background, as Rock Challenges are used to complete certain tasks, such as demolishing a building or fending of a giant octopus. It doesn’t feel quite as different or challenging as a multiplayer version of the rotating play of Rock Band Unplugged, but it is a nice diversion, breaking up the monotony of the traditional Rock Band progression. Lego Rock Band also features a “story,” in which the characters only mumble and crazy things happen. It’s silly, and helps give the game some added charm.
The set list isn’t the strongest in the Rock Band franchise, but features a few unique tunes like the Ghostbusters theme and Europe’s “Final Countdown,” both used in unique ways for the series. The usual bevy of unlockables will keep players at it, especially when they are Lego-specific items that beg to be collected.
The main complaint to be found with Lego Rock Band is its export system. Harmonix pioneered the track export feature in the rhythm genre, but it seems with each installment bearing the Rock Band name the methods or possibilities of doing so are different. Lego Rock Band allows a full setlist export, and the tracks can then be used with Rock Band 2. But while the game itself is priced lower than common new video game releases, it will cost players another $10 to get those tracks on the hard drive, something it would seem would just be built into the price at this stage.
Still, the price isn’t prohibitive, but the system for doing it can be. Players are provided with a unique code (presumably to prevent passing around one disc), but that code doesn’t unlock the download. Players must first go online and enter it into a website, then receive a code that must be redeemed through the game, then actually pay (assuming the player already has credit on his account and doesn’t need to add that too) before finally exporting the tracks. While the need for a unique code is noted, there is no reason the process needs to be this complex, with as little guidance as provided by the insert. As many hardcore Rock Band fans will see Lego Rock Band as a glorified track pack, this is a problem.
Still, it’s not a deal breaker, and anyone who plans to export the tracks should first play through them in the game, as Lego Rock Band provides a wealth of entertainment beyond the song selection. The new gameplay elements don’t revolutionize the series, but they keep it interesting. And the charm of the Lego franchise is impossible to deny for anyone with a soul. Lego Rock Band may not be the most necessary game this holiday season, but it’s a great one for families to find themselves playing during holiday gatherings.
For more info, www.rockband.com/games/lego
Pads & Panels received a copy of the game courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.