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Review: Rock Band Blitz

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Regular readers of this site are well aware of my love for Harmonix's stable of music games. I have all three Rock Bands, Beatles Rock Band, and both Dance Centrals — and I still play them all regularly. So it was with great anticipation that I downloaded their newest game, Rock Band Blitz (available for Xbox 360 and PS3 via Xbox LIVE and the PlayStation Store, respectively). It's a departure from the usual music game, which has its advantages... and disadvantages.

The basic premise will seem familiar to anyone who's played Rock Band before. Each song has different instruments and hitting the notes at the correct time gets you points. The thing is, instead of just picking one instrument and desperately trying to not miss a single note while playing a plastic instrument, you use a controller to switch between instruments worrying less about hitting every note and instead, hitting as many power-ups as you can. Because it's the power-ups that will max out your score. (There's a variety of them that behave in different ways, so you're going to need to play around with them all to find a combo that works best for you.) Also, you want to hit a certain number of notes on each instrument to raise the multiplier as high as possible. If this all sounds a little complicated, it kind of is.

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But what Harmonix is really good at is creating a game that is super-accessible while still retaining enough depth for people who want to get really hardcore with it. I continue to enjoy playing Rock Band and Dance Central, even if I'm not playing either of them at the higher difficulty levels. While Rock Band Blitz doesn't actually have a difficulty setting, you can't ever fail out of a track. Your score just won't be as high.

High scores are the name of the game in Rock Band Blitz, and Harmonix has created a much better system for interacting with your friends on leaderboards. (Which is good, because there's no actual multiplayer at all. This is strictly a solo affair.) During the song you're playing, there's a meter on the right hand side of the screen that lets you know just how close (or far) you are from beating the score of your friends. That kind of instant gratification is really satisfying. And on the main screen, you can easily see challenges from your friends you can engage in. And you'll want to do that, because that's the best way to earn Coins and Cred. Cred unlocks new power-ups to use, and Coins are used to activate them. Before each song, you can choose which power-ups you want to have active, but they come at a cost. Which I found kind of annoying, because my scores didn't seem to be high enough to earn enough coins to be able to afford to activate more than a couple power-ups. And if you try to cheap out and save your coins and play with no power-ups, you'll never even come close to beating your friends' scores, no matter how dextrous you are. (On the plus side, a week after release, Harmonix has tweaked the Coins system so you'll get more for completing a song or challenge and the power-ups cost less... so I guess it wasn't just me!)

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Controls are relatively simple, being that there are only two kinds of notes in each instrument track: left or right. You can choose from a few options as far as a control scheme, but I feel like the default D-pad/A-button is the easiest. Sound is of course terrific — being a Harmonix game, it would be weird if it wasn't. Graphics are bright and colorful, and it's hard to wonder why we're "driving" down a city street since there are so many bells and whistles going off all over the place. Trying to watch all the tracks, hit the notes, look out for special notes ahead, and keeping an eye on your power-up meter can get pretty overwhelming. I just didn't find it as satisfying as playing a song in regular Rock Band. I guess I prefer pretending to be a musician (which I could never be).

While this kind of arcade-style twitch game isn't really my cup of tea, I will say that Rock Band Blitz is kind of worth it as a DLC pack alone. See, all of the 25 songs in the game can immediately be played in Rock Band 3. So $15 for 25 songs (most of which are actually really, really good) is a pretty good DLC deal. Getting the Blitz game along with it is almost like a really fun bonus. (Also, all the Rock Band DLC songs you've got on your hard drive are playable in Blitz.) That's not to say that the Rock Band Blitz game itself is no good. It is. I just don't know if I'm going to be playing it as much as I'm going to continue to play traditional Rock Band.

A copy of Rock Band Blitz was purchased via Xbox LIVE for the Xbox 360, and played a whole lot.

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