Guitar Heroís growing collective track list might be getting more diverse, but you would never mistake it for being particularly inviting to pop fans. Fans of dance and the Casey Kasemís American Top 40 variety have been largely out of luck, with the franchise having until recently focused more on soft and hard rock. Enter Band Hero. Replacing the flaming skulls with neon hearts and rock magazines with E!-styled websites, this is a broad grab for a larger audience with an embrace of all things pop for the past four decades.
Essentially a reskinned Guitar Hero 5 (review), Band Hero has all of the features and flaws of the original series. But now, instead of head banging and throwing up the horns, youíll be bopping your head and expressing your desire for everybody to dance. It would have been nice for the lingering design and technical kinks from five to have been ironed out Ė Can I just get a list of band logos? Please? Ė but the series is at a point where itís a largely pain-free, from switching instruments to adding new band mates during play. Band Hero expands upon the franchiseís appeal by reaching out to a wider, and some might say younger, audience by re-imagining a bandís rise to fame Ė itís mall tours now. With so much similar to GH 5, the gameís appeal lies more so on your taste in music than in past releases.
If you arenít a fan of Taylor Swift, who also makes an in-game appearance as a playable character, then Hero might not be the best entry for you. Fans of Swift, and Iím talking more about the female teenage demographic here, will find the pastel colors and gossip-blog stylings more to their liking than screeching guitars and grungy roadies. Iím generalizing, of course, but the move to more up-tempo hits with a brighter and more animated presentation does speak to a younger crowd. Thereís nothing wrong with that, and those wanting a more family-oriented music title will find Heroís track list and Ė sometimes needlessly Ė censored lyrics more appropriate for a family game night.
Older players will also find a surprising amount of noteworthy tracks as well. Itís surreal to play a Marvin Gaye song immediately after passing up a Hillary Duff track, but the older tunes do provide some respite from some of the more contemporary duds for the older crowd. The lighter tunes also result in simpler note compositions than before, with the result being it easier to achieve four- and five-star ratings, as well as accomplish the instrument-specific bonus goals for additional points and equipment. The only real downside to the simpler compositions is that there is noticeable note repetition in many of the songs, but that tends to be offset by newcomers being able to jump in and not get overwhelmed. This approach might not have worked so well in other titles in the Hero line, but it does a good job in underscoring Band Heroís design of being newcomer- and casual gamer-friendly.
In addition to the career mode, the popular no-fail Party Play mode returns, a perfect fit for Band Hero. As soon as the game launches, a random song begins to play which allows for players to jam immediately or skip to the main menu. This feature allows other players to also opt in or out, on any instrument, and choose their difficulty throughout the song; it can be accessed on the main menu as well. Sing-Along also returns, another no-fail mode that allows for up to four players to sing at once. Those wanting some competition can play in one of seven multiplayer modes with up to eight players, solo or in a band, instrument dueling, overcoming adaptive difficulty, or going for a perfect run in each note section. Training is also available, which helps to cover what Party Mode doesnít make clear, such as how the score multipliers work. Quickplay also returns, for those wanting to make custom set lists, well as well as the music studio for the more ambitious out there to create their own tracks. The ability to import songs from previous entries, such as World Tour, is available for returning fans, but itís still a little murky (I advise visiting here, if interested) and will cost extra cash, which is unfortunate. However, Band Heroís 65-song track list is a strong showing.
Playable musicians are again included, and their presence does a good job in demonstrating the differences between Band Hero and Guitar Hero. Unlockable musicians this time around include the aforementioned Taylor Swift, Maroon 5ís Adam Levine, and No Doubt. I think GH 5ís inclusion of Johnny Cash and Heroís inclusion of Adam Levine provides a clear example of the audience each series is targeting, and whether or not youíre in that demographic. You get the refinements of the original series, but now in a brighter, more inviting and family-friendly environment.
A spin-off of the Guitar Hero series, Band Hero is a much more general title set for a broader appeal than its rock-centric counterpart with the inclusion of decades of top pop and dance hits. Released with all of the cumulative refinements of the original series, Band Hero benefits from a solid foundation but doesnít attempt to resolve any of the lingering issues. With a much more inviting difficulty curve, at the cost of some overly repetitious note segments, and censored lyrics, the title is just right for the younger gamer and for family night. By casting such a wide net, Band Hero largely succeeds: the presentation and contemporary hits will ensnare the younger crowed while the decades of top hits will undoubtedly include classic tracks that will appeal to the older crowd. Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.
(This review is based on a retail copy provided by the publisher.)