Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Beatles Rock Band

Game play in the Beatles edition of Rock Band is quite similar to the main game, at least in terms of playing the instruments. The one striking difference for me is that there are no drum fills. In Rock Band: Original Recipe, the way to activate "overdrive" is a brief interlude in the song where you can improvise and end on a crash cymbal. In The Beatles Rock Band, you don't get to improvise, you just have a special crash cymbal note to activate it (and it's called "Beatlemania" of course). I suppose I can vent my desire to improvise with the freestyle mode, especially when I have the cymbal set installed: for all practical purposes, it's like a full toy drum set. (You can even play along with MP3s.) The other big change is harmonies but with only one microphone we haven't tried that (nor could we without more singers, as I don't count as a singer even in desperate times).

The real differences are all outside the song play. One "bad" element is repetition. To complete each "chapter" of the story, you play a set of 4-5 songs, then you unlock a challenge which is... playing precisely the same 4-5 songs again. They don't really have enough songs to go around to make it any more than that, but it feels a bit clunky.

The cool thing, though, is the rewards. In the other Rock Bands you would earn cash to buy new clothes and instruments, plus advance through a career by earning a tour bus, roadies, etc. which increased your available venues. None of that applies since you're playing out a career that already happened. So instead, you're earning memorabilia. Each song lets you earn one or two photos with trivia captions that tell you about the period in Beatles history you are currently playing. Earn enough photos and you also earn a prize, which is some bit of video or audio or both that you might not have seen (I understand some of them are archival footage that hasn't been available until this game). There are also quite a lot of Trophies to earn, some very easy (you get one just for playing any song in each chapter, for instance) and some mind-numbingly impossible.

The transitions and effects are really cool, and it's also very neat to be playing actual shows in actual venues and seeing the actual performers in their actual outfits and with their actual instruments. I wonder if some of the animations are based on real video from the Ed Sullivan show, for instance.

I'm surprised by how many add-on tracks there are. I might have to buy Abbey Road, my favorite Beatles album (and one of the very, very few drum solos in their ouvre), after I've gotten more of the included tracks under my belt.

Incidentally, I'm getting used to the drum throne. When I get my positioning right, I actually get much better results on the kick drum, with my foot being less sore and my accuracy improved (despite the fact that it seems The Beatles Rock Band is more picky about timing whenever the kick drum is simultaneous with another beat), but when it's not quite right, my accuracy plummets. I'm guessing on how to adjust it so there might be further room for improvement, though I have to retrain myself each time I adjust.

Today I'm going to try out Rock Band 2, after a lot of importing and calibrating and stuff.

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