Rock Band Blitz is not the Rock Band you might know and love. It’s played with a standard DualShock 3 or Xbox 360 controller, with no plastic instrument peripherals in sight. All the trappings of Rock Band – building a band, playing venues, working your way up the pile – are pretty much gone. Musicians, licensed guitars and concert footage backgrounds are out, and everything is stripped back and streamlined to the core of a rhythm action game. Rock Band Blitz is all about the score – nothing more. In a way, it’s Harmonix returning to its roots, and it’s not hard to join the dots connecting Blitz and its pre-Guitar Hero hits, FreQuency and Amplitude.
All that said, it’s not an entirely alien beast. The display might be a bit familiar. As a song plays, five tracks scroll towards you, each representing a separate instrumental or vocal part. The markers on the track correspond to the notes or beats in the song, and it’s your job to press a button at the exact moment that the marker hits the indicated point. Here, however, Rock Band Blitz deviates from previous Rock Bands. You only have a choice of two buttons to hit, putting the emphasis almost purely on timing rather than getting the right note, and you’re not merely expected to play one part but all of them, switching from one to the next with a quick squeeze of the left and right shoulder buttons.
Build that Bonus
The idea is to hit the notes required to build a bonus multiplier for that instrument, then switch to the one that needs help most, shifting from guitar to vocals to keyboard, bass or drums as required to ensure that no one track is being left behind. The background of the track fills with colour as you build, and getting all tracks filled before you hit the next checkpoint increases the maximum multiplier you can get in the next section of the song. Hitting checkpoints also resets things ready for you to start building again.
In a way, Rock Band Blitz is very generous. You can’t fail a track or lose your bonus just by fluffing notes, and it’s only when you’re particularly good on a certain part and the game speeds up into the high-scoring blitz mode that every note counts, as dropping one knocks you straight out of it.
In another way, though, Rock Band Blitz is pretty tough. Simply getting the hang of the core mechanics takes time, and some tracks are an instrument-juggling nightmare, as you struggle to keep building those multipliers across so many tracks with so much going on. At the end of the song you’re rated on your performance and placed on the global leaderboard, and while getting one to three stars is easy, hitting four or more gets progressively more difficult.
Boost your Score
Knowing the song, and when to focus attention on one instrument is one way to get a better score. There’s nothing worse than having ignored the vocal track for a huge chunk of song then realising you’ve hit the instrumental outro. When it comes down to it, Rock Band Blitz is all about hitting the song again, trying new strategies, and hoping to polish what went right last time. In other words, it’s your classic high score attack game.
To give you a better chance – and add an extra wrinkle to the game – completing songs earns you ‘cred’, and this unlocks power-ups. These make it possible to boost your scores and multipliers to new and unseen levels, with effects ranging from simple time-limited bonuses to notes that explode and trigger those around them and flaming trails you must pursue, to additional score bonuses for skipping from track to track in time with the beat. Using bonuses is key to reaching the higher places on the online leaderboards, so you need to think carefully about what power-ups to use and when.