Once again it’s that time of year when all right-minded souls ponder one of life’s biggest questions: which of the recent crop of games will do the best job of banishing the Boxing Day blues and take us partying through to New Years Eve. The likes of Forza 3, Dragon Age and Modern Warfare 2 will do the job, but you can’t really disappear for hours at a time when family or friends come around. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, not make like Billy no-mates. Wii Sports Resort is a contender, but then most of us over-did that in the summer.
Not everyone has the voice for Singstar, the knowledge for Buzz or Scene It!, or the sheer nerve and patience for New Super Mario Bros Wii. No, to my mind this year’s best recipe for glad times with kith and kin is Lego Rock Band. While it has at least two huge, whopping flaws, it’s hard to think of a game better suited to Boxing Day action, or an audience that might take in anyone from kids to mates to parents, grandparents and in-laws.
Why? Simple. Lego Rock Band takes all the fun stuff we’ve come to expect from the Lego Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Batman titles, and applies it to the cognoscenti’s choice of music game, Rock Band. In fact, the main career mode is basically identical. Up to four players can form a band, constructing the singer, drummer, guitarist and bass player from a selection of Lego heads, legs, hairstyles and bodies.
Your band plays gigs, earns fans, stars and Lego ‘studs’, and in doing so unlocks and purchases new vehicles, which in turn open up more venues and more gigs. Along the way you might want to hire managers, producers and other members of your entourage, giving you bonuses and – occasionally – something else you need to take your band up to the next level. If you’ve played Rock Band and Rock Band 2, Lego Rock Band is a different experience, but still very comfortable and familiar.
The same goes for the core gameplay. Whether you’re playing bass, drums or guitars, it’s all about hitting the right button, or right pad, in time with the notes that appear on your scrolling display. If you’re the singer, just try to get the phrasing right and stay in tune. By getting specific sequences of notes you earn ‘overdrive’, and with a tilt of the guitar headstock skywards this can be deployed to earn extra points, or save a band member who has got into trouble. If you’ve played Rock Band or Guitar Hero before, then you won’t get many surprises.
Some changes have been made to make Rock Band more accessible to the family audience. It’s now impossible to fail the average song so that you have to repeat it from the beginning – mess up horribly, and you’ll just earn fewer studs when the song is completed. What’s more, there’s a super easy mode where you merely have to hit any button or pad at the right time in order to push through – ideal for the under-six and over-sixty contingents alike.