On top of the game's good sized (for a portable game) music library, you can also download brand new songs from the online music store. Ss far as I can tell this is the first time a music video game has attempted to create an online storefront for a portable game. At the moment the only songs available are from acts like Muse, No Doubt, Oasis, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Paramore, but one has to assume that more songs will be added on a semi-regular schedule.
It's not just the music and instruments that will look familiar, Rock Band Unplugged also features the same basic modes you saw in the other two Rock Band games. The most interesting of these modes is World Tour, where you take your band across the world playing all kinds of great rock songs. Sometimes this entails you play only one or two songs, sometimes you get to make your own set list, other times it's a mystery. If you've played the World Tour in either of the two other games, then you know what to expect here. As you might expect, this is a slightly smaller version of the world tour and most of the sets are shorter than what you saw in Rock Band 2. This is more because of the system you're playing it on and I ultimately found that it worked to the game's advantage.
On top of the World Tour mode; you can also play whatever song you want in the Quick Play mode, as well as practice your timing in the helpful Training mode. The one thing you won't be doing is playing with friends. That's right; this is a single-player only game. I bet you didn't expect to read those words in your lifetime. This has always been a franchise built around getting you and your friends together to rock, but you can't do that here. There are ways that it could have been incorporated, including a fun Amplitude-style battle mode. But alas, this first portable Rock Band game does not have any multiplayer to speak of. It's a shame; I can only hope that this is rectified with any future installment.
The gameplay itself, while simple, can be a little tricky at first. I've been playing Rock Band so long that I feel confident on expert, no matter what song. But that's not the case here. When I turned the game on and slid the difficulty to expert, I was knocked to my knees by how difficult it actually was. My thumbs weren't prepared for the brutal attack they were about to take. So I bumped the difficulty down and worked my way back up. There is a learning curve here, so don't expect to go from playing a fake plastic guitar to playing Rock Band Unplugged.
The good news is that I found myself getting better after every song. I didn't mind that I had heard most of these songs before, I had never played them before using this kind of Frequency-style gameplay. Before long I was attracting a lot of virtual fans and earning some cool cash, which you can spend to outfit all four members of your group. The game's not perfect, but it was a fun alternative to the real thing. If this Harmonix testing the waters to see if the PSP is the right fit for Rock Band, then I can't wait to see what they unleash on us when they eventually make a sequel. For me this is the sequel to Amplitude I never got, and for that fact alone I can wholeheartedly endorse Rock Band Unplugged for the PSP.
Don't be pessimistic after the disastrous Guitar Hero On Tour games, Rock Band Unplugged is another fine example in a very young franchise. It looks like the real Rock Band but plays like Amplitude, the perfect combination as far as I'm concerned. Don't let the duplicate songs fool you, Rock Band Unplugged is one of the best music games ever made for a portable game system!
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