It is utterly amazing to me how many reviews of rhythm games I have written in the past few months. Each company is firing all of their plastic instrument discs out the door and it can almost get confusing trying to keep track of them all. Lego Rock Band is the latest from the guys that brought you, well, Rock Band and it takes two run-into-the-ground franchises and combines them for a surprisingly solid performance. Sure if you are sick of the formula then this isn’t going to change your mind, but if you are not this is actually one of the more refreshing entries in the genre this year. Get your plastic instruments out for yet another encore, only this time as a loveable Lego character.
Lego Rock Band is the epitome of licensed gaming. The idea was to take two of the most popular franchises in gaming and combine them to appeal to a broader audience. The collaboration works, but whether it will entice gamers to run out and drop the dough on the game is another story. Rhythm games should be self-explanatory by now so I am not going to run through the motions explaining about colored buttons and note phrases. Instead I want to get right into what most people are going to be wondering about this game: the track list.
There are 45 songs on the disc and for anyone interested the PS3 and 360 versions allow you to export those songs into Rock Band 2, or even use your downloaded content within Lego Rock Band. Wii owners are not so lucky. Not only are the songs tied to the disc, you also cannot use any of your DLC with the game. So if you own a Wii and are looking at this game know that your only option is to enjoy the songs on the disc. With that said what is here is actually a nice mix of songs that should be diverse enough that everyone can find something they like.
Well-known tracks such as “Walking on Sunshine” and “Ghostbusters” give the game the mass-market appeal while obscure tracks from Vampire Weekend and Lostprophets offer variety. While not quite as pop-inspired as Activision’s recently released Band Hero, Lego does offer more in the way of softer tunes. Elton John makes the list as well as “So What” from Pink, “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5 and even a few movie tunes ripped straight from some of the Disney favorites including Counting Crows “Accidentally in Love” from Shrek. In traditional Rock Band fashion even the most laid back song is charted in such a way that it is fun to play. MTV, Harmonix and Traveler’s Tales have done an outstanding job of making each and every song enjoyable.
What surprised me the most about Lego Rock Band was that the presentation was so refreshing when compared to the more serious approach of Rock Band. I love the comical animations that the Lego series has become known for and seeing the characters and venues makes me wish I could import my Rock Band 2 tracks into this game and make it my default vessel. You can also customize your character and buy new items with the studs you earn for both your character and of course your pad. Enough cannot be said about how much more lively and fun the presentation is with this game, and even though it doesn’t push the boundaries of the 360 or PS3, it still remains visually appealing.
The amount of modes in the game is nice, but it does shave off some of the features from RB2. No longer can you go online and play against others, which for better or worse I really didn’t miss. Rock Band has always been a social or party game to me, so I usually only play with people in the same room. They have also added a new Super Easy mode that is reminiscent of Guitar Hero 5’s mode where all you really need to do is strum without worrying about hitting the notes. Same can be said with the drums and vocals as it becomes the bouncing ball that we got accustomed to in children’s cartoons. This mode is nice but unnecessary as most kids really shred on these games, which makes me happy that they did not dumb down the Expert difficulty. It is still as challenging as ever.
The tour mode takes you through various venues just like previous games, and you can earn managers, road crew and even purchase new vehicles to take you to new areas. The structure feels very similar to Rock Band, but the addition of Rock Power Challenges really adds to the eccentric nature of the game. The one that stands out the most has to be the Ghostbusters challenge. Basically these sections let you play a song while your notes accomplish whatever is going on in the background. The first one is you playing to destroy a building. If you are playing in band mode you do get to take turns playing so you can manage to catch a glimpse of the action, but most of the time I found myself missing notes because I wanted to watch the action in the background. This mode is actually quite fun and it really adds the colorful flavor that feels lacking in RB2.
Lego Rock Band really does a great job of delivering top-quality presentation and a decent array of songs. Considering you can export the tracks the price tag (even with DLC license fee) you are still getting a bargain. Like I said though I wish I could import Rock Band 2 songs into this arena as it just feels fresher. However, a lack of online and a few other key Rock Band features keep it from being a must own in the series. If you love Rock Band and are looking for another chapter then I definitely recommend checking this one out. Wii owners I would be more cautious as your version truly has enough setbacks to warrant staying away unless you really like the on-disc songs.