Gamers often complain about ‘those bastards that buy Madden every year.’  Well, I have to confess, I am one of those bastards, but instead of Madden, music games are my sweet, sweet digital crack.

Of the thirty-eight boxed Xbox 360 games gracing my living room, nine of them start with “Guitar Hero.”  If we add five Rock Band games (no Green Day for me, thank you) two Karaoke Revolution games, and DJ Hero, that brings the total of music-based games in my Xbox 360 library to seventeen.

As I’ve written before, music and videogames are the two great tastes that taste great together.  So yeah, when it comes to music games, I am “that guy.”

I was mildly interested in Band Hero when it was initially announced as a “family friendly” version of Guitar Hero, something for parents that weren’t interested in introducing their younglings to the musical stylings of Slayer or Nirvana.  While some of the songs on the Band Hero setlist looked like they would be fun to play, there wasn’t enough Good Stuff to justify dropping sixty bucks on the game.  I figured I’d wait for the inevitable price drop.  Fast-forward about a year later and I find that my Friendly Neighborhood Electronics Store has marked it down all the way to $17.99, so I figured, why not?

Band Hero isn’t quite what it says on the box.  It isn’t just “family friendly Guitar Hero.”  Don’t get me wrong, it is family friendly, but that phrase only tells part of the story.

Band Hero is Guitar Hero for girls.

Band Hero Interface

Its so sparkly!!

Seriously, there is no better way to put it.  Take Guitar Hero 5, coat it in pastel colors, dip it in glitter, drop several scoops of pop music on top and you get Band Hero.  There isn’t anything inherently wrong with making a music game for the younger crowd, though.  After all, their competitors at Harmonix made Lego Rock Band so that kids can have some fake plastic rock fun, too.  But for Pete’s sake, the interface looks like it was designed by Lisa Frank. I haven’t seen that much purple since the 80’s.

Also, Lego Rock Band, at least has some, well, rock with Lego versions of Queen, David Bowie, and Iggy Pop as well as music from those iconic performers.  Band Hero has Taylor Swift, Adam Levine and No Doubt.  Yeeeah.  I’m sorry, but except for maybe No Doubt, those guys don’t exactly bring the house down.  Even then, there are some pretty cool classics we haven’t seen in any of these games before like “Mr. Roboto” by Styx, “Black Cat” from Janet Jackson and Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”

One feature that I found odd was the ability to perform as your Avatar in the game.  The Avatars look just

Xbox Avatar in Band Hero

SECURITY! There's a Muppet on stage!

plain weird on stage next to the other characters, like Muppets.  Otherwise, it’s Guitar Hero 5, which was pretty good from a technical standpoint but had awful music.  I actually had more fun playing this game than Guitar Hero 5, which says something about how lousy 5’s songs were.

Your decision to purchase the game (or really any music game, for that matter) will depend on how many of its songs you like.  A quick dash to Wikipedia will determine whether Band Hero is worth it to you.

If you have kids, or just really like pop music, there are worse games than Band Hero to drop a twenty on.  Underneath the sparkly presentation is a pretty good game.  Now if you’ll pardon me, I need to play some Gears of War in a feeble attempt to salvage what masculinity I have left.

Rock Band for the Xbox 360 gets a 3 out of 5: G00d

I grade on a 1 to 5 scale.  My “review philosophy” can be found here.


Metal to the Pedal!

Metal to the Pedal
Originally uploaded by EdSoliz

At first I was considering a repair kit for my beleaguered Rock Band bass pedal (see previous entry). A repair kit has a metal plate which is attached to the busted pedal with self-tapping screws. It would do, but there would be nothing to stop the underlying plastic from breaking further, and driving some screws into something made out of plastic might make that happen just a bit quicker too.

Cost: $25 Certainly a few more bucks than I what wanted to spend, but what the hey, that upgrade to Rock Band 2 wireless drums can hold off a bit.

I then read about PedalMasters who sell a complete metal replacement for the entire pedal. There would be some work involved in removing the plastic pedal completely and replacing it with the new one.

Cost: $30 A few more bucks, but hey, there would be NO chance of that sucker breaking. After an agonizing 3 days waiting for the Postal Service, I got my prize and put it all together. Even for someone as mechanically un-inclined as myself, it was fairly easy, though there were a few rough spots. The verdict?

This. Kicks. Ass.

I can’t say it any better than that, the pedal now has a much better feel to it. The increased weight reduces the push back from the spring underneath and it is much more comfortable to use. Even after playing “YYZ”, “Call Me”, “Ballroom Blitz” and “Rio” on Hard difficulty my leg felt pretty good. I can hit the triple-bass notes in YYZ (though I can’t say much for the REST of the song) and it ROCKS.

Once I get the Rock Band 2 set, I may replace its stock pedal with this monster. Big thumbs up to Pedal Masters!


Agony of De-Notes, Part 2

Almost Got It
Originally uploaded by EdSoliz

I wouldn’t say I’m much of a perfectionist, but if I am playing a music game and I can smell that perfect 100% it just drives me bonkers when I come up just short. My longtime nemesis used to be “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in Karaoke Revolution, which I eventually conquered (well, on Medium difficulty, anyway). The current bane of my (gaming) existence is Jonathan Coulton’s “Skullcrusher Mountain.”

But I’ll get you, Mr. Coulton, AND YOUR LITTLE DOG, TOO!

-maniacal laughter-


Rock Band – Opening Act

(continued from June 30)

So I had decided that I wanted Rock Band, but I also decided I didn’t want to fork out $170 for the whole kit and kaboodle. After all, I have a Guitar Hero 3 guitar that will work with the game, and I was 90% sure my Karaoke Revolution microphone would work. That just leaves (naturally) the most expensive part, being the drums…which are $80 on their own, and the game is $60, which at $140 is pretty darn close to the full price anyway! As popular as the game is, I figured a sale probably wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. I figured I’d have to save some change for a while.

As fate would have it, I had just received $15 in Best Buy Reward Zone certificates from a recent TV purchase, which knocks the price of the game down to $45! On a hunch, I browsed the some online stores for the drum kit, and lo and behold, Amazon had it on sale for $50 with FREE shipping, woo-hoo! Needless to say, paying $95 was MUCH better than $130

After nearly going insane waiting for the UPS guy a few days later, I had my drum kit, the mic worked perfectly, and simulated rock stardom was within my grasp!

All I needed now was a band.


Rock Band – Warming Up

I have been salivating over Rock Band since its release. As a fan of music-based games, the siren call of the Next Big Thing was one that was hard to resist. A few things kept me from acquiring the game for some time, though: the high price tag, reports of less-then-stellar instrument reliability, and a set list that was heavy on newer music kept me away from the party for some time.

Finally, I decided to rent Rock Band and see if it was worth my hard earned cash. I figured a play-through of the Solo career mode on guitar would give me a look at all the game’s songs. I could then make a decision based on how much the game rocked…or not.

As I detest Blockbuster, I decided to go to Hollywood Video first to see if they had it for rent. I quickly discovered that the two nearest Hollywood Video stores were shut down, and I had no desire to drive over to Leon Valley Speed Trap, Texas. I dug up my Ballbuster membership card out of the dresser (I knew there was a reason I didn’t cut it up) and hit the road. Much to my surprise, they had the PS2 version, and as I still have my trusty PS2 Guitar Hero SG controller, it was time to rock. Blockbuster still sucks, though.

Much to my surprise, I liked more of the current songs than I thought I was going to based on just looking at the track list (yeah, I know, ‘don’t judge a book’ yadda yadda yadda). I finished the game on Medium in guitar and tried singing a few songs in QuickPlay mode, and it was lots of fun. The diffculty was scaled back compared to previous Guitar Hero games, especially when compared to the Medium = Hard stuff going on in Guitar Hero III. The Medium diffculty on the singing also felt easier compared to the Medium difficulty of Karaoke Revolution. That may be attributed to the game’s focus on the various flavors of rock music, however.

So, at this point, I knew I was going to get the game, its just a matter of when…