If you’re like me, you have a (figurative) pile of Rock Band DLC songs on your hard drive, reminders of the days when a (literal) pile of plastic musical instruments was a fixture in your living room. Rock Band Blitz brings all of those old songs to life in a new way, swapping perfect performance for strategy as your method for racking up high scores. It’s fun to experience your old music in a new way, but those without an existing collection may not find the appeal.
The best way to describe Rock Band Blitz is “familiar but different.” The game still has note tracks, only now you’ll see them for all of the instruments in the song you’re playing at once. The basic gameplay is simplified from the original games; each track consists of only left and right notes, played by moving the analog sticks on the controller, or pressing the directional pad and A button. The game doesn’t focus on playing all of the notes for any particular instrument, but rather switching between them to maximize your score.
Playing enough notes on a track will level it up, increasing the score multiplier for notes on that track. You’ll need to resist the temptation to stay on that track though – each song has checkpoints that will raise the maximum multiplier based on the lowest track value, so leveling up each track is key to maxing out your score. You’ll also get bonuses at the end of a song based on the multiplier for each track. Playing enough notes consecutively will trigger blitz mode, where everything speeds up and scores are bumped until you miss a note.
Your score does more than just give you bragging rights, it also earns you blitz cred and coins. As you gain blitz cred you’ll unlock different powerups that you can purchase for use on songs using your coins. There are overdrive powerups that can be engaged after collecting enough energy from special notes, powerups that add special notes and also track powerups, which give you bonuses for certain actions while playing a song. You can have one of each type active and there are several to unlock, allowing you to tailor to your play style overall, or to a specific song to boost your score.
Rock Band Blitz makes no secret about being focused on your existing library of songs; when you first start the game it immediately scans for any DLC content that you have on your system. It’s so focused on the content you already have that the songs included in the game aren’t actually in the initial download, and need to be downloaded separately, almost as though they are an afterthought. The main screen suggests songs for you to play, but they’re often songs that you don’t own, and I got annoyed with the feeling that I was constantly being steered towards purchasing more content.
When switching between musical tracks the instrument that you’re playing stands out nicely, making it easy to focus on the notes you’re working on while still hearing the whole song, and like with previous Rock Band games you’ll hear your track drop out when you miss a note. The visuals have a nice pop to them, and switching between the colorful tracks looks nice and smooth. Rather than traveling in a straight line, the tracks flow along city streets, moving up and down hills and around streets as cars and buildings whiz by, giving the game a nice, fluid feel.
Rock Band Blitz hit some of the same notes in my brain that the original Rock Band games did, and I found myself dropping into the zone where I stopped thinking about what buttons I was pressing and just going on instinct, or holding my breath at the end of a song to see if the bonus would push me up to the next star. That being said, playing the notes just isn’t as satisfying using a standard controller, and at times I found myself wishing I had that plastic guitar handy. The strategy is satisfying though, and for those who want to dig in will find you can spend a lot of time perfecting your approach to a single song.
While traditional Rock Band games cast you as a musician, Rock Band Blitz makes you feel more like a producer, taking the individual instrument tracks and manipulating them to achieve the best result. For those who have a library of DLC it’s a nice way to get some extra mileage out of those old songs, and the game encourages you to revisit lots of different ones. For those without that existing content though, the appeal is limited, and I can’t imagine purchasing extra songs with the sole intent of playing them in Blitz. If you’re looking for a new way to play your old tunes it’s a fun change of pace, but newcomers probably won’t find enough here to merit a purchase.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.