August 28, 2012 · 0 Comments
Carolyn Petit travels the musical highway of Rock Band Blitz in this video review.
Long before fake plastic musical instruments carved out a place in the living rooms of millions of people with rock star dreams, Harmonix released Frequency and Amplitude. These games let you move through the layers of songs, riding the rhythm of the drums one moment and the wailing of the guitar the next, all without the need for peripherals. Rock Band Blitz is a throwback to the format of these great games, and the experience of weaving through music and pounding out beats is as exciting as ever. A frustrating coin system sometimes puts a damper on the fun, but for the most part, Rock Band Blitz is an enjoyably competitive way to rock out to some great tunes, and a fine way to breathe new life into your existing Rock Band library.
There’s no campaign in Blitz; it’s just you and the songs. Songs are visually represented as a series of colored lanes, each corresponding to a different aspect of the music–drums, guitar, bass, keys, and vocals. Each lane has notes along the left and right sides that match up with that instrument’s activity in the song, and it’s satisfying to pound out button inputs in keeping with a drumbeat or a groovy piano melody. If you hit enough notes on a lane, its point multiplier goes up by one, though you can’t stay on a single lane indefinitely and continue increasing its multiplier throughout an entire song.
Once you’ve increased the multiplier by three, you can’t increase it anymore until you pass a checkpoint in the song, and the level cap for the next section of the song goes up to three higher than your lowest current multiplier. You may have your drums, guitar, bass, and keys all at 10x when you hit a checkpoint, but if your vocals are down below at 8x, you won’t be able to get any track above 11x in the next stretch of the song. As a result, one of your key goals when striving to maximize your score is to hop between tracks, increasing each one’s multiplier as much as possible before hitting the next checkpoint. As you slide from one lane to another, the current instrument comes to the forefront of the sound mix, creating the pleasing sensation that you really are moving through the music.
Rock Band Blitz has a competitive focus, urging you to beat friends’ scores on songs and showing you, as you play a song, how your current score compares to a friend’s score at that point in the song. This gives you added incentive to perform as well as possible, but there is a downside to the game’s emphasis on score. As you play, you earn a form of experience that the game calls blitz cred, and as you earn blitz cred, you unlock power-ups that you can use to increase your score.
These come in three general types. Track power-ups are mostly passive power-ups that increase the point value of the notes on a specific track. Note power-ups trigger fun arcade-style happenings when you hit special purple notes in a song. For instance, hitting a purple note when you have the pinball note power-up selected launches a large pinball onto the track, and the longer you can keep it in play by switching between lanes to block it when it threatens to fall past you, the more points you earn. Overdrive power-ups let you spend energy collected by playing glowing white notes to trigger various benefits, like a temporary doubling of all score multipliers or a “bandmate” who takes over the current track for a little while.