Rock Band Blitz review
While the yearly installments of Rock Band and Guitar Hero have all but died out, the music genre still thrives. It's apparent that games like Sound Shapes, are constantly trying to innovate the music genre, albeit without plastic instruments. Before the crazy amount of peripherals started occupying our living rooms, Harmonix had two games on the PlayStation 2, Frequency and Amplitude, that allowed players to get creative with playing songs, while trying to shoot for high scores. It seems like Harmonix is definitely trying to go back to its roots with Rock Band Blitz, since in this Rock Band, your plastic instruments can continue to collect dust in your closet.
Rock Band Blitz isn't as much about playing music from various bands, but rather learn them, their note highways and try to capitalize on getting the most amount of points. If you've ever played any handheld iteration of Rock Band, such as Rock Band Unplugged, or even the aforementioned Amplitude or Frequency, you'll mostly understand how this game is supposed to work. You get control of every single instrument highway, down to the keyboard, and it'll be up to you to constantly switch between each one, trying to rack up score multipliers and hit as many notes as you can.
Unlike those games however, playing each instrument isn't actually necessary. When I first booted up Rock Band Blitz, I actually played it like Unplugged, thinking that all I need to worry about is filling up each highways' respective color, and then move onto the next one. While that's technically true, it's still important to switch to highways that have more notes on them, rather than a dead one with one note every now and then. Essentially what I'm saying is even though you reached your target multiplier on every instrument except for the keyboard that only has a few notes here and there, it's probably smarter to focus on the drums which have a steady beat, and then switch to keyboard later when more notes start showing up.
It's definitely not the easiest of concepts to grasp, and even for someone like me who would 5-star almost every song on Rock Band, it definitely took some getting used to.
Throughout each song are various checkpoints which will either raise your score multiplier threshold up, or leave it the same. The way to raise it up is to basically ensure that all your instruments' multipliers are maxed out during that given segment. If one is lagging behind, you might only raise it by one, or not raise it at all. It's actually a clever system which encourages players to focus on all instruments, rather than on just the one which has the most amount of notes in it.
While there is no direct multiplayer, there is a heavy emphasis on getting a high score on the leaderboards, or sending your score as a challenge to your friend. Even before you start playing, you're presented with the highest scores for each song, which will give competitive players incentive to get the highest score possible. Once you finish and realize you only have a quarter of their score, you might find yourself a bit confused. That's when power-ups come in.
As you play songs, you'll earn Blitz Cred, which can be equated to XP. Each time you gain a level, you'll unlock some sort of power-up which will help you boost that score. Of course some power-ups work better together than others. For instance, one of them will let you activate a track to play itself while you move on to the next one, couple that with Super Drums which give more points for drum notes, and you'll definitely see your score rise just a bit higher.
Each power-up costs a certain amount of coins to use during a song, which means you won't always be able to be fully equipped. It's an odd choice to have players farm for coins when they're low just to be able to use a power-up. I can see how it would extend your playtime, but it can get annoying when you're basically forced to play through songs without power-ups, if all you wanted to do was to crush your friends score.
Still, the experimentation with power-ups and picking the right times to play each note highway will no doubt extend the playtime of Rock Band Blitz astronomically, especially considering all your previous downloaded songs will work in Rock Band Blitz.
The song selection, while definitely not stellar, does cater to just about everyone, with Iron Maiden and Quiet Riot to satisfy classic rock junkies, Kelly Clarkson and P!NK to make fans of Pop happy, and even some Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance for those of us that like to listen to depressing, albeit catchy music. And while you're not 'making' music like in previous Rock Band games, you can hear whatever instrument or vocals slightly louder than the rest, giving you the illusion of some song manipulations going on there.
While it certainly doesn't look like it at first glance, Rock Band Blitz will definitely give your fingers a workout. Even though there are only two notes to play on each highway, there are no difficulty settings, as each song has more than enough notes flying at you at any given time.
There are a few things I personally didn't love. For instance, if I wanted to switch directly from the left track all the way to the right, I can't simply click the left bumper to appear on the other side, instead I have to mash the right bumper in order to quickly hop over all the other tracks. I also feel like the keyboard track specifically should have had an easier time gaining multipliers. Most songs, notably the ones included with the games either underutilize it, or have it appear halfway through the song, and then only have a few notes on it. What happens then is that I don't have enough time to raise its multiplier high enough to raise the overall multiplier threshold.
While I personally love the controller setup, especially since I'm a huge fan of Amplitude and Frequency, and even mildly enjoyed Unplugged, mostly everyone who came into the office to watch me play, have almost all unanimously stated "Why are you playing Rock Band with a controller?" and even after explaining, they didn't see the point. So my point here is that Blitz is definitely not for everyone. If you're expecting a similar experience to the core Rock Band games, you might find yourself a bit disappointed, however if you're a fan of music games in general, and want to see Harmonix go back to their excellent roots, then $15 is a small price to pay for the amount of gameplay you're getting. Hey, at least all those previous Rock Band DLC purchases won't go to waste right?