Band Hero

Band Hero

What we liked:

+ Party play
+ Importing option
+ Sleek design
+ DS connectivity

What we didn't like:

- Limited audience
- Not much different from GH5

DEVELOPER: Vicarious Visions   |   PUBLISHER: Activision   |   RELEASE: 11/03/2009
If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my track pack.

The premise behind Band Hero is exactly what is going to get it the most criticism from reviewers. This is essentially the same game that was released two months ago, but with a different skin and a much different audience in mind. That being said as long as you know that going in Band Hero offers all of the same improvements that Guitar Hero 5 offered and 65 brand new tracks that can be imported into the other game and vice versa. I actually applaud Activision for this move as it now gives both types of players the ability to make their own choice. If you want the more Top 40 type of music then go with Band Hero, while the hardcore crowd can stick with GH5.

Party Play was the feature we truly appreciated the most in GH5 and it makes a return in Band Hero. You can jump right into a randomized song list right from the main menu. This allows people to hop in and out of songs, changing difficulty and not worrying about failing. This new mode really goes far to create a pick-up-and-play atmosphere that the genre was originally founded on. You can also play any collection of instruments you choose simply by plugging them in. Two drummers, four singers, the choice is yours, and what makes this new feature one of the best additions to the genre since its inception.

Band Hero is definitely geared towards the more radio-friendly crowd with special appearances by Taylor Swift and Adam Levine of Maroon 5 fame. The track list is also exactly the opposite of what you might expect from a Hero game. Tunes from the Spice Girls, Jesse McCartney and Hilary Duff populate the track list, and most will likely call the game out for this. Funny enough even not being a fan this list is not entirely terrible because it delivers just the right tracks for the people it is aimed at. Sure if you shred out to Dragonforce on a regular basis, toning it down to some of these more subtle and poppy tunes will not be for you, which is why I once again commend Activision for creating an entire game based around songs that would never have made it into the other games.

Another returning feature from Guitar Hero 5 that I truly loved is the song challenges that crop up during the career mode. These range from hitting a certain number of notes in a song to nailing notes in a solo. These challenges open up the ability to earn more stars on each song, which once again brings the count up to eight stars per song including the almighty perfect sixth star for not missing a note. This adds a lot of replay to the game, especially considering the challenges are usually spread across multiple instruments so for instance one song may require guitar, while the next challenge focuses on a full band experience.

The problem with reviewing a game like this is that it is exactly what Guitar Hero 5 delivered a little over two months ago with different songs, which essentially makes it a track pack. Considering that 65 songs at $60 is actually quite a steal when considering the price of DLC lately, which is not necessarily a bad thing. If you are a fan of this type of music then it is definitely worth it, especially considering everything in Guitar Hero 5 was definitely the best in its genre as far as improvements and features go. You can still opt to pick up the full band kit, which comes with the exact same instrument collection found in GH5, all while trading your Johnny Cash for Taylor Swift.

The Wii and 360 versions also bring back their respective features including Avatar support on Xbox and Mii support on Nintendo’s machine. The best part about the Wii version though is the return of DS compatibility. The Roadie Battle returns which allows users to connect their DS and play the role of repairman on the stage. You will run back and forth putting out fires and repairing instruments throughout the set, which is truly why I recommended the Wii version of GH5. You can also connect your DS and jam out creating your own songs using your Mii. The Wii version goes a long way to make up for not being as streamlined in the DLC department by adding this cool features that truly separate that version from the other two. There is also one brand new feature to Band Hero that allows the DS users to customize the setlist for everyone playing, which is yet another reason why the Wii version again reigns supreme.

Career mode has also been toned down much from previous games. It is almost nostalgic to simply play songs, earn stars and unlock new venues. A lot of the flare is now gone, which goes a long way in continuing the trend of simplified gameplay. Band Hero does a lot of good things, but that is mainly because GH5 did them first. I hate to keep beating the dead horse with that statement but it is really true. This is exactly the same game with some new tracks, and as long as you are fine with that then you will enjoy it.

The presentation reminds me of the difference between Grand Theft Auto 3 and Vice City; lots of pinks and purples to give it almost an 80s vibe. The venues are actually really cool; I especially like the one where the crowd was in a pool in front of the stage. All of your favorite GH characters make an appearance in their best tween fashion apparel and everything is laid out super smooth. All of the menu tweaks and upgrades are again present and sorting songs has never been easier.

Band Hero is not a bad addition to the franchise, but actually a step in the right direction. Some people may say Activision is milking the franchise when it is truly apparent they are simply offering many avenues for everyone to find something they like. The Top 40 music game is actually long overdue and I don’t think it would be any more sensible to make this entire thing DLC as it would require people only wanting these songs to purchase both the original game and an entirely new pack. I like the idea and I think Band Hero executes it nicely. If you are not into this type of music there is no reason to check it out, however, if you do own the latest Taylor Swift CD and still wish the Spice Girls would release a new album, it is right up your alley.

Ken McKown
Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.

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