BandFuse: Rock Legends Review: School of rock

A lot of games have come along that encourage the art of rocking. The fact of the matter is that rock music is one of those iconic mainstays of society, and if you get the chance to be a part of it in some way, that's something truly special. Games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band were all about friends jamming with fake plastic instruments, drinks, and pizza. It was a party revolution, really. Then along came Rocksmith, which set out to teach players how to learn the ins and outs of guitar playing with less emphasis on entertainment. Now we have BandFuse: Rock Legends, which merges both worlds.

Right off the bat, it's important to know that this isn't your typical guitar game. If you think you can jump right in with no problems just because you could shred a mean guitar solo in Rock Band, you're in for a big surprise. BandFuse is primarily a tool for learning how to play the guitar, which is something of an art and totally worthwhile if you put the time and effort into it. As long as you approach this title with the mentality that you're going to have to invest a great deal of time, patience, and struggles, you'll be fine. More importantly, you'll be on the road to being a guitar player, which is rad.

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BandFuse comes packed with a number of tools to either help you learn to play guitar or begin to master it if you've already delved into the world of music. The best way to get started is by checking out the tutorial videos. Iconic guitarists the likes of Slash and Bootsy Collins guide you with their words of wisdom and help teach you the basics, as well as more advanced lessons. It's extremely pivotal that you have the patience to watch all of the videos, because even if you just want to jump right in, you won't get anywhere if you don't familiarize yourself with the different parts of your guitar. For some, sitting through these videos may be a bit much, but you'll have to do so anyway.

Aside from some standard yet still very important lessons, you'll also find that your biggest tool is the Lick Lab. Here you can break songs up into parts and slow them down to varying speeds to learn how to play each part. It's all about time and dedication, and there's no feeling quite like realizing that your guitar skills are improving. Admittedly, I felt a bit of frustration early on, but if you stick with it, frustration will eventually turn into an immense sense of satisfaction. It's almost like learning a new language, except playing the guitar sounds way more awesome than pretty much any language out there.

One thing that may initially discourage you — or at the very least, give you a really hard time — is the formidable jump between difficulties. With five different settings, you'd think BandFuse would ease you into the experience a bit smoother. Unfortunately, that's not the case, and instead you're required to go from one level of playing to a much more daunting level. Again, it's all about how determined you are. If you keep from getting discouraged, your tenacity will pay off, and you'll get the hang of the higher difficulties in no time. Well, not exactly in “no time,” but you get the idea.

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Once you feel comfortable enough with your skills, you can jump right into the game's Tour mode. This campaign of sorts lets you virtually travel across different venues to rock out in front of a growing audience. You go from performing at clubs in front of small crowds to headlining and selling out entire arenas before your legions of fans. Like Guitar Hero and Rock Band before it, the Tour mode in BandFuse does a good job of making you feel like you're on your way to rock stardom.

If you're looking to have some fun with friends, you'll be glad to know that this game supports multiplayer. You can hook up a couple of guitars, a bass, and a microphone to get that awesome party vibe that was so popular in the rhythm games of the past. In addition, each player can tweak the difficulty to suit his or her abilities, making the game accessible by both musical newcomers and longtime rockers. What you get with BandFuse is, in essence, a guitar teacher that doesn't sacrifice the fun of playing with others.

You've got 55 songs spanning a number of genres to keep you entertained. Aggressive metal, loud punk, and good ol' rock are among the obvious inclusions, but there's plenty more to play around with. You've got everything from The Strokes and The Clash to Heart and Blink-182. Hell, even some of the more joyously offbeat bands like Modest Mouse are included. The variety offered in BandFuse is most certainly pleasant, and though not all players will like every song, it's great that there's practically something for everyone.

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Setting up BandFuse is fairly straightforward. The Xbox 360 version of the game that I reviewed comes with an adapter that allows you to connect your console to your TV or sound system for the best audio. This is primarily geared toward folks using an HDMI cable for their picture output and ensures that there's no latency. Considering the importance of sound and timing in BandFuse, the inclusion of the adapter is a total godsend. You can even plug headphones into the adapter, so if you've got people around you who aren't fans of loud rock music (heathens!), you can keep the blissful sounds of Jane's Addiction all to yourself.

It often feels like more of a learning tool than a game, but BandFuse isn't without its traditional party game entertainment. Obviously, the main draw here is that you'll get better at playing guitar, so if you're a hopeful musician, you can definitely rely on this particular title to help you get to where you want to be. With tips from the pros, the ability to break down songs and slow them down, bass and mic support, and all of the living room concert fun that the rhythm genre has become known for, BandFuse is a great way to rock.

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