Battle of the Bands


posted 5/5/2008 by Dave Gamble
other articles by Dave Gamble
One Page Platforms: Wii
At its very core, Battle of the Bands is like Super Mario Kart, except without the fun. The hope was apparently that it would be viewed as Guitar Hero for the Resident Evil crowd. "Like, whoa man, it's music but you get to attack the other player with incendiaries and projectiles! I am sooo there, Dude!" The idea is that you use Wii Remote motions such as left, right, down, and stab to match the movements as they come up the screen (not down the screen, mind you, that idea has been done to death. Our amps go to 11 and all that...) and every so often, hitting a note will launch an attack on the other player. There's not much feedback when you miss a note, though. Rather than the irritating screech or the uncomfortable silence of Guitar Hero, a missed note only results in a lack of vibration in the controller.

If this all sounds eerily similar to the Battle Mode in Guitar Hero, well, that's certainly just a coincidence, or you're reading too much into it, Dude, or so they'd have you believe. There's much more to it than that, see. You get to choose the type of band you want to be (Rock, Country, Marching Band, Mariachi) and your band will play the song in that mode. Your opponent also chooses a type of band, and that band plays the same song, but with the flavor of its type. The competition between the bands is to determine which version of the same song has primacy at any given time. For example, you may be playing as a marching band against an opponent who is playing as a hard rock band, and the song may be Man of Constant Sorrow. If you are winning the battle, the marching band version is what you will hear, and vice-versa. Can you see the problem here? Well, until you have experienced it, possibly not. The problem is that you end up with something like the current Democratic primary: no matter who you are, you eventually end up wishing that both could lose. At some point, it ends up being just noise. I suppose it's possible to find a song that sounds equally good as a rock, country, or marching band song, but I haven't come across it yet.

Which would be ok, I suppose, if the immense fun of the game play offset the burden of having to listen to such butchered tunes. Sadly, that's not the case. You launch attacks pretty much automatically. although you can choose various types of weaponry. In my experience, it wasn't like choosing the M-256 or a sniper rifle in Battlefield 2, where a decision like that can have serious ramifications. I couldn't really tell one attack from the other. And I had to hit each note anyway, so there wasn't a whole lot of strategy involved. It's also possible to block the other player's attacks on you by using the B (trigger) button to bring up a shield which I suppose you would do if you really cared who won, but I never seemed to be able to develop any emotional interest in the outcome of the battles. I really just wanted the whole thing to be over. Contrast that with Wii games that I can't seem to quit no matter what kind of pressure is being put on me to "put that damn guitar down - we're going to be late!" and you'll see why I don't think Battle of the Bands will capture the attention, devotion, and enjoyability of the games that inspired it.

Battle of the Bands takes the best elements of some recent hits and tries to combine them into something new and fun. Unfortunately, it misses the mark.

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