At long, long, long last, the PS3 GameFlex cartridge for my You Rock Guitar finally arrived, and I got to try it out. This was the first time playing Rock Band guitar in many months, since my old guitars stopped working due to changes in the PS3 firmware ages ago. So for my first try, I played a song I didn't know on medium -- bad idea, but it was unavoidable as I was still figuring out the controls used to select songs. It went okay anyway, though; I adapted pretty easily to the guitar.
Siobhan, on the other hand, found it quite tricky to adjust to fingering, plucking, and strumming strings, and couldn't get the timing right. She eventually decided she'd rather just sing until we get a conventional button-based controller. (I won an auction for one on eBay, but the seller seems to be cancelling it, so I might have to start over.) I wonder what the difference is; maybe it's because I've played guitar and she hasn't. But she has played stringed instruments, so that might not be it.
Game play isn't really that different, but somehow, playing "chords" -- which in Rock Band on medium or easy mode is nothing but two notes at once, and there's only five of them -- feels more compelling. I also found that my accuracy went up if I strummed when playing chords, but plucked when playing notes, which makes no sense: the guitar makes no distinction between them, but somehow, my hands did.
As a controller, the You Rock is solid, with good performance, but it has a few oddities. First, going into Overdrive doesn't work by tilting the guitar; instead, the mute bar is used, which is harder to do while also playing, and too easy to do by accident. Second, there's no PS3 button, which means you can't get out of the game, just into it; the odd thing is it's got tons of buttons, so why didn't they make one of them do that? Third, strumming only moves the cursor down, not up, which means you have to use the joystick for that instead; a minor thing, but it'd be easy (I think) for them to make it so an up-strum moves up and a down-strum moves down, which would be very cool.
Other mild irritants are how the guitar times out and shuts down if unused for a few minutes, forcing you to restart it, which takes a few moments. It'd be nice if it didn't time out quite so quickly. And before one song, it just dropped out entirely on me, and I failed out of the song, lost fans, and had to restart both the dongle and the guitar and repair them. Hopefully that was a fluke.
Apart from that, it has a very solid feel that just encourages guitar-player theatrics. It feels like a real guitar because in some sense it really is a real guitar. I feel sure that people who haven't played real guitar and try this as a controller will feel motivated to get an amp and play real stuff. Even more so after Rock Band 3.