Rock University Presents: The Naked Brothers Band The Game – WII – Review

In any group or public setting,
there are few games as gratifying as those that use the power of music. Music
moves us – it makes us sing loudly while driving with the windows down, makes us
jig embarrassingly when we probably shouldn’t, and makes some of us enter air
guitar contests with the dream of becoming the best fake guitar player in the
world.

Having a strong love of music and
games inspired by its lovely sound, there aren’t any music games I won’t touch.
Thus, when The Naked Brothers Band: The Video Game was within an arm’s length, I
reached out, grabbed a Logitech microphone, strapped on the silly Wii remote
wrist strap and braced myself for the latest game attempting to steal SingStar’s
throne.


 

Musically Successful

Most of the players who are
interested in The Naked Brothers Band: The Video Game will be drawn to it
because of The Naked Brothers Band. It’s easy to see why – this kiddie group is
far more talented than the goofy Nickelodeon promos would have you believe.
Their songs were written for kids and are much lighter than the normal angst or
sex-filled tunes you’ll hear on the radio or MTV. But the soundtrack isn’t all
fluff. Younger listeners will surely relate to tales of not wanting to go to
school or encounter a teacher, and will discover more musical and lyrical depth
than the “Mmmm Bop” craze of the 90s that threatened to destroy mankind’s
ability to hear.

Brotherly Love

The concept behind The Naked
Brothers Band video game is simple: using the Wii remote, Nunchuk and Logitech
microphone (the latter is included with the $50 package), players have the
opportunity to become a member of the band. Jam like a pro as keyboardist David
Levi. Rock out as drummer Alex Wolff. Strum like a master as Qaasim Middleton.
Enrich the music as bassist Rosalina or cellist Thomas Batuello. Or show off
your vocal talents by pretending to be Nat Wolff.

Each character (and related
instrument) is playable in the game and may be accessed individually via the Jam
Session mode. Jam Session also lets you choose any city, any song and any
concert venue.

Party mode is essentially the same
as Jam Session, albeit with the inclusion of a second player. Only two-player
games are allowed in The Naked Brothers Band, so that means you’ll have to
fulfill your grander multiplayer dreams another day. Co-op and competitive play
modes are featured, the latter of which adds both players’ scores together when
the song concludes.

However, the real meat of this game
is the Tour mode, which takes you through five cities and 20 different venues.


 

Mechanically Challenged

The Naked Brothers Band video game
opens strongly. The game is particularly noteworthy because of the soundtrack,
which succeeds despite having music from just one artist. Part of Guitar Hero
and Rock Band’s success has been credited to their musical variety. EA and
Activision have offered spin-off discs and downloads that focus on one artist,
but they’d never risk taking that route with the primary game. The fact that
this game can exist without other artists is a testament to The Naked Brothers
Band’s popularity.

However, there is a big difference
between existence and survival. While I have no doubt that Naked Brothers Band
fanatics will flock to this game, they are not likely to stick around.

Without any music controllers to
work with outside of a microphone, the developers had to make some tough
choices. They must have wondered, “How do we re-create the experience of playing
an instrument while waving a Wii remote?” The answer has yet to be found. Their
solution aimed for simplicity but achieved perplexity.

To play the cello, players must
study the on-screen pattern (a bar at the bottom of the screen with blocks
scrolling across) and swing the Wii remote as the green block hits the sound
bar. Your timing does not have to be perfect, nor must you show any sense of
rhythm to pull this off. Simply swing, swing, swing. If a higher or lower note
needs to be played, push the thumbstick up or down to reach the middle strings,
and hold Z while doing this to reach the first and fifth strings. Now swing
away.

The bass and guitar mechanics work
exactly the same, with the former containing a marginal difference (it only uses
three strings and offers another note type).

These mechanics are in no way
representative of what it’s like to play an instrument. Somehow the music games
of the 90s, which used controller buttons and not much else, seem more accurate.
But at least these “instruments” are easy to play. Drumming is the easiest of
all, as you’ll shake the remote (right notes) and Nunchuk (left notes) as the
notes scroll across the screen.


 

Playing the keyboard, however, is
messy at best. Using the Nunchuk to play the bass keys and the remote to play
the treble keys, players must hold the D-pad and control stick to switch between
the three keys on each side. Hold, swing, reposition; hold, swing, reposition.
That’s the cumbersome pattern you’ll have to execute.

The vocal mechanics aren’t much
better. There’s a mic-only mode that does its best to re-create the Karaoke
Revolution gameplay style. It doesn’t work out too well, as most of the songs
can be mumbled through very easily. But at least the game tried. The
vocal/controller mode, however, is potentially the most ridiculous feature Wii
players will experience this year. Rather than using your voice to sing along
properly, you’ll hold onto the Nunchuk and push the thumbstick up or down to
change your vocal bar. This eliminates the need to sing in different keys,
allowing players to mumble through without issue.

Though you might think this is a
handy novelty that’ll keep the kids busy, they won’t like any of the gameplay
features offered by The Naked Brothers Band. The soundtrack may be good but the
awkward controls and weak vocal settings will not hold a five or 10-year-old’s
interest.


Review Scoring Details
for Rock University
Presents The Naked Brothers Band: The Video Game


Gameplay: 4.0
Who knew it was possible to play the drums, guitar, bass and cello just by
waving your arms? Who knew that talented vocals could be supplemented for the
push of a thumbstick?

Graphics: 1.0
If you think the character designs are horrible (they look more like a
five-year-old’s Play-doh creation than a Wii video game), just wait until you
see the lifeless animations. Magically, these musicians can play an instrument
without moving their hands!

Sound: 8.0
Kids will dig the 25-track selection.

Difficulty: SUPER Easy
"SUPER Easy" – that sounds like the name of an SNES game, doesn’t it? Nope,
just the description of The Naked Brothers Band’s difficulty.

Concept: 5.0
When the band on stage shouted to the crowd, "Wave your hands like you just
don’t care," I don’t think this is what they were talking about.

Multiplayer: 2.0
Friends don’t let friends play cumbersome games together.

Overall: 4.0
A generic, motion-based music game that doesn’t come close to resembling the
act of playing a real instrument.