It’s hard to know what to make of Rock Band Blitz. The change of style risks being divisive, and at the end of the day not everyone gets a score attack game. Most importantly, while its clever, well-balanced and hideously addictive, so much will depend on whom you’re playing it with, and what music you’re playing it to.
For a start, it’s a game that thrives on competition, and while it’s nice to know that you’ve the 10th highest score in the world for playing Hall and Oates’ Maneater, or that only 13 other people can take you on Fun's We are Young or Yes's Owner of a Lonely Heart, it’s a lot more interesting to know that you’re ahead of some bozo you actually know. Secondly, while the game comes with three tracks and a free 2x-strong pack of songs to download, the selection is pulled too thin across too many genres to really satisfy anyone. If you were stuck with the Rock Band Blitz soundtrack, then Rock Band Blitz probably wouldn’t knock you out or even last you all that long.
Pay to Play
The trick, of course, is that it works with existing Rock Band tracks or any tracks you’ve previously downloaded, which is good news for long-term fans. What’s more, there’s a built in browser to go to the online Rock Band store and find and download more. Were we more cynical, we might suspect that Rock Band Blitz was being sold inexpensively through PSN and Xbox Live Arcade because Harmonix sees it as a vehicle for prolonging Rock Band download sales. Even if that’s not the case, you can see how it might end up working that way. The compulsion to add to your collection is extremely strong, and the game actively rewards you for playing with new tracks.
Still, if it turns out to be an expensive habit then it’s worth it, because playing Rock Band Blitz with music you already know and like transforms the experience. There’s always something about the synergy between music, graphics and gameplay in a great music game, and Rock Band Blitz has it in spades.
In fact, it even works with music you already know and don’t like. Your humble correspondent had fun building high scores in the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Give it Away and Queen’s Death on Two Legs, but then began an assault on the leaderboards with Maroon 5’s execrable but catchy Moves Like Jagger. It was still fun. A quick burst through DLC tracks, including Hall and Oates’ Private Eyes, Yes’s epic Heart of the Sunrise and Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box proves that the magic of Rock Band Blitz isn’t limited to the bundled tracks, either.
So, this isn’t Rock Band as you might know and love it. You’re not rocking it out with a plastic guitar or locking tight with other players in a band, and that was always a huge part of Rock Band’s alchemy. Were this a full blown sequel rather than a budget download we might also be making more grumbling noises about the track list, while suggesting that the social gaming aspects could be a bit more active; if ever a music game called out for the equivalent of Need for Speed’s Autolog, this game is it.
Yet Rock Band Blitz works brilliantly as a high score game, and as a new way to enjoy and interact with music. You might lose out a little on depth – though Rock Band Blitz has more than you might think – but you gain on accessibility. There’s no ladder to climb or set list to unlock, just you, your songs, and the promise of a better score next time. With a game as good as this, that’s all you need.
A successful arcade spin on Rock Band. The score attack approach won’t be for everyone, while hardcore fans might miss their plastic instruments and the old games’ authentic rock band feel. But judge Blitz on its own merits and it works brilliantly, both as an arcade game and a music game, even if it only really comes alive when you add or invest in favourite Rock Band tracks.