Less than a year ago, Activision released the novel and surprisingly painful Guitar Hero On Tour. It would behoove you to read our review of the original, as very little has changed this time around with Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades. Actually, for those that tried the original and found it uncomfortable, you can stop reading now: the guitar grip add-on is the exact same model. Those who don’t mind the grip should expect an expensive expansion. Also, as I do not have hands of steel, I can only review Decades as one who has had their hand transformed into a claw for the second one, now thanks to the likes of Queen and Lynyrd Skynyrd
Decades brings a few new things to the table: a new storyline, 28 tracks, and multiplayer feature. All of the tracks are original recordings, which has become increasingly important to me as the genre becomes populated with upstarts that use - often poor - cover bands. It’s a shame that the DS has such a hard time taking full advance of such a coup as its speakers struggle to provide clarity and Ss to sound like the letter and not ‘sh’. Not all songs sound bad, of course, but something like Sweet Home Alabama will really drive home just how limited the sound system is.
The tracks are split up according to the decade in which the songs were released, as you might have guessed. As music is violently subjective, I can only say that the tracks were decent. I could certainly do without all things Alien Ant Farm to be sure, but Volcano Girls by Veruca Salt and I Believe in a Thing Called Love by The Darkness are definitely right by me. The mixture between commercial and critical hits seemed to be decent, and there’s always the volume button at the ready for whenever a song isn’t to your liking – hello, Dirty Little Secret. Some of the tracks are bonus songs that are unlocked upon completion, a nice little incentive to keep playing after completing a storyline.
Calling the different modes “storylines” is a bit misleading, actually. Lead guitar and guitar duel are back from the original, and nothing has changed. As the lead guitarist, your band will hire a shifty manager and climb the ranks by playing in the modern venue and continue on until the 1970s venue has been properly rocked. The story portion is nothing more than the manager saying how much you “rock” and then the owner of the venue telling you that you had better “rock” or else! – maybe you should talk to the fat bald dude before getting overly antsy, pal. As you play through the songs, new guitars are unlocked, cash is collected and respect is earned. The only thing the cash is good for are alternate outfits for the various decades, which is probably the limpest implementation of a cash-reward system that I’ve seen in a while. I mostly stuck with the same two outfits as changing them did very little, since your avatar is so tiny on stage. Everything has a text description, from the history of the decades to the history of the guitars, which are good for a laugh or two. The guitar duel is the same as before, with you battling out other characters using bombs, pulled strings, items to autograph and fires to blow out, complete with you having a far more difficult time breaking from playing to hit the weapon icon to launch an attack than the computer does. The bass/rhythm guitar storyline, however, is entirely new.
While new, the bass/rhythm storyline is just a stripped down version of the lead guitarist’s story. Instead of being in a band, you’re a nomadic player that travels from venue to venue, picking up cash as you make your name playing with other bands. It’s not really exciting or all that interesting. The notes tend to be a bit easier for the songs as well, which experience players might find dull but I took as a glorious respite for my beleaguered hand. Filler for the pros; practice for the newcomers.
The only other significant addition is for multiplayer. For you who have friends that own the original, the two of you can link up together and share tracks from both versions. When two DS systems are connected, each with a different version of On Tour, both players have access to the entire track list. That’s not a bad deal, but I would venture that most people picking up Decades already own the original. Still, a nice feature nonetheless.
Overall: 6/10As with Guitar Hero On Tour, a lot of the enjoyment comes in how comfortable you find the grip add-on. Myself, I would have cramps going in to the second song. The game recommends taking frequent breaks and I did, but the problem is that, what with the game being based on music, it’s hard to get into the rhythm whenever you’re having to constantly start and stop. On top of that, aside from the tracks, there is very little here that is new. Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades is essentially a pricey track pack, because the new modes are so-so and the track sharing feature of limited appeal. If you are new to the series and the grip works well for you, then you’re in for a treat; as a sequel, however, it’s not terribly strong with new content and didn’t do much to fix the previous problems.