The Rock Band
franchise, and the Guitar Hero
franchise for that matter, are an interesting gaming concept. Although the titles have distinct differences – mainly in their music selection – they share the same premises and gameplay concepts. LEGO Rock Band
is not excluded from this fact. You pick a song, you hit a note when its time comes, and you play music. And that's the main gist of the game.
This line of games is by no means bad or boring, but they eventually become monotonous and amount to only being useful in certain scenarios. For me, and – from where I can tell – for many others, the Rock Band
games are always busted out when company is over. It’s the usual cheese and crackers and Rock Band
platter to keep everyone entertained. We nibble on snacks, and get some guitar and drum action going on to feel like rock stars. And I do indeed feel like a rock star. I don’t have any musical talent of my own – minus being able to pick out a good song or album to listen to – so the experience of playing music is a fun one. I personally broke in my guitar fingers on Guitar Hero II
, and I remember not being able to put the game down at the time. Eventually, however, the novelty wears off and all you have left is a party favor. Again, LEGO Rock Band
is not excluded from this fact.
This particular title of the Rock Band
franchise is adorned with various LEGO characters and characteristics. The notes are indicated by LEGO pieces, the avatars are LEGO characters – the combination of which I’m sure makes for a nice aesthetic to a “family-friendly” Rock Band
game. Wait, but aren’t all the Rock Band
games fairly family-friendly?
LEGO Rock Band
does try to change the idea of gameplay a bit, but unfortunately by no means is this change innovative. For one thing, in order to progress through the game and achieve new gigs to play, you’ll have to spend your LEGO money (aka Studs) on new vehicles to help you travel and an entourage to help you with various tasks. You might argue: but this adds to the realism of being in a struggling band! Ok, maybe. I didn’t really get this game for its realism, though. I got it because it’s fun to hit buttons when the screen tells me to, and to see how well I can do it while wielding a controller that looks like a guitar. I think that part is pretty awesome, and I feel pretty awesome doing it. The challenge should lie in the actual gameplay of playing the music, not in working towards being able to play the sets themselves.
They’ve also tried their hands at something of a storyline – another aspect of video games that is unnecessary in this particular genre of games. In some ways, this storyline does add flavor to the gameplay in terms of background scenes while you play. Here, I’m referring to the LEGO Rock Ban
d exclusive feature of Rock Power Challenges. Every so often you’ll come across a cut scene portraying a particular scenario: a farmer crying over decrepit crops, your band enraging the Securi-T-Rex at the Dino Hotel, etc. In Rock Power Challenges, you’ll be using the power of rock to help you fend off your problems. I was helping the construction workers tear down a building with rock n’roll, and fighting off ghouls in a haunted mansion. Although I don’t always pay attention to background scenes when playing a game like Rock Band
, being that I’m usually too focused on the notes, no one wants to look at a blank screen with a rolling set of notes. I will give credit where credit is due and tell you that they get the cuteness factor, which is appropriate given its family-natured pretense. The cut scenes and background action during gameplay are definitely unique compared with games of a similar genre. Even the music for these special rock challenges is fitting, like “Ghostbusters” for fighting off the rude ghosts.
This was one gameplay aspect that I did find interesting. These Rock Power Challenges were key to keeping the game in a forward progression, but relied solely on my performance and put me through certain gigs that I had to achieve a certain number of stars on to have been considered successful and be allowed to move on to the next venue. This includes the various non-Rock Power Challenge gigs, but with similar cute back-stories. Maybe the folks over at LEGO City Station are missing you, or one of the construction workers has a birthday going on. My only issue with the Rock Power Challenges, however, is if you’re playing with another musician, which I would imagine that being in a rock band
you are apt to be doing. It will force you to take turns playing the challenge, and give each of you the boring task of watching the other play.
There’s also the usual surprise setlists, and the build your own setlist when playing the gigs within a venue. The issue here, however, is that you’ll end up repeating songs often, as there are only a stack of 45 of which to go through. This quickly gets boring, and when I played on my own I’d end up randomly switching difficulty or switching from guitar to bass just to keep things interesting.
There are also useless additions to the game that perhaps might be appealing to someone obsessed with the idea of consumption, but not to my rocker’s heart. You can spend your LEGO currency to decorate and accessorize your rock den and crew, respectively. The only LEGO Studs I was spending was on the vehicles and entourage members, and you’ll remember that that is because I had to make these purchases in order to get to new gigs. Some of your entourage will actually help you get interesting gigs like recording music videos or recording an album. I was never concerned about how many Studs I had at my disposal, so this wasn’t a hindrance to my gameplay per se, but it felt unnecessary.
The menu and loading screens are another waste of time. To get to story mode you have to traverse several menu options, some of which are definitely necessary and therefore unavoidable, but many of which could have been left out. After completing story mode and unlocking all vehicles and arenas, sorting through to get to your un-played gigs becomes a hassle and a half. I don’t want to pick my vehicle, and I don’t really care for which venue I play in, especially considering that when trying to get a game going it will usually be for my company of casual gamers. I suppose that situation would call for free play rather than story mode. At the same time, however, I did enjoy the limitations put on the songs I played until I proved myself worthy enough to progress, and I’m sure my company would, too. I want to like story mode, I really do.
As for the music itself, the variation makes for good family fun. I didn’t personally particularly enjoy the pop songs or Disney featured songs like “Accidentally in Love” by Counting Crows. There were, fortunately, some select rock songs that were fun to play as well as old school rock tracks perfect for a group of diverse ages (aka, a family). I’ll emphasize the limited 45 tracks you have at your disposal, but this is where Rock Band
DLC comes into play. Obviously that will include some extra pennies from your pocket. For another additional fee, you can export these songs to your Rock Band 2
, should you own it, which will at least consolidate your in-game music collection.
You’ll notice in your song selection menu that some of these tracks won’t be much fun if you’re playing drums, bass, or whichever instrument is your preference given their low level of difficulty range. You’ll end up avoiding certain tracks simply because they don’t play well. They’re repetitive, slow, boring, and other similar adjectives. These are also some of the more appealing songs, like Blur’s “Song 2” of which I’ve always enjoyed. I imagined it would be a great selection, but the track couldn’t be more boring. You’ll find a few of these seemingly great playing songs that amount to simple repetitions of notes.
Being that the game should be accessible to all members of a family, LEGO Rock Band
also features the new Super Easy mode. This mode is, as you would imagine, incredibly easy. Hitting color-coded notes is no longer an issue – you’ll just have to hit the notes at the appropriate time, applicable to both the guitar and drums. Vocals seem completely useless on this difficult setting given that pretty much any noise making will suffice.
It seems in the end that with the addition of the LEGO feature of the game, the other Rock Band
features were replaced. Gone are the days of online multiplayer, which was a huge bummer. There’s also no bundle pack with this game, so you’ll either already have gotten some form of Rock Band
bundle to get your instruments and game, or you’ll have to buy them separately. You’ll have to decide whether or not the cute LEGO features and appeal of a “family” Rock Band
game is enough to give up on the other titles of the franchise with bigger song sets and more gameplay features.
LEGO Rock Band is as cute as you would imagine, with unique storylines coupled with adorable cut scenes. While these aspects are sure to instigate fun family time, the game is by no means comparable to its predecessors with almost double the songs available and some of the more prominent gameplay features like online multiplayer. The tracks become monotonous, and once the novelty of the LEGO characters wears off you’ll be wishing you bought a different Rock Band title.