Between starting Guitar Hero and expanding into Rock Band, Harmonix has proved themselves as the masters of plastic instruments. With Rock Band Blitz, they’ve stepped onto the stage and muttered, “And now for something completely different…” before dropping the mic.
If you’ve picked up your Rock Band guitar in anticipation, you can put it down… For now, at least. Rock Band Blitz is played with an honest-to-goodness controller. There are a variety of control options for you to decide what’s comfortable for you, but if you have an arcade stick, I would highly advise using it. (Thanks, Apathy!)
Obviously, with a controller, the gameplay is an entirely different beast than previous entries. It’s more like Rock Band Unplugged than any of the prior installments. If you’ve played that, Frequency, or Amplitude, you’ll be at least somewhat familiar with the barrage of notes coming at you from all sides. For the uninitiated, all of the instruments’ note paths descend at the same time. Playing on one lane at a time, switching between them, your goal is to increase the multiplier’s for all lanes before crossing the checkpoints. Leave an instrument’s lane alone and you’ll be penalized; your multiplier won’t be able to increase until the next checkpoint. It can leave a pretty devastating impact on your score in the long run.
As in all Rock Band games, the score is what really matters. Harmonix have been pretty savvy with that this time around, adding in even more leaderboards and features like “Score Wars” that allow you to challenge your friends to gain more coins, which you can spend on power-ups. Honestly, some of the best parts of Rock Band Blitz are when you’re challenging your friends to beat your score on the poppiest drivel you can find. I even found myself buying songs almost exclusively for the bragging rights when challenged on songs I didn’t own.
That’s where things get really interesting: the DLC aspect. All of the songs that are compatible with Rock Band 3 (except for the songs that are actually from RB3, which has no export) are compatible with Blitz. For many users, me included, this will have them starting out with hundreds of songs right from the start. Fret not if you’re interested in this, but were never into the plastic instrument scene. Blitz comes with 25 songs of its own. If you are a regular Rock Band player, you’ll get all 25 of these songs in your RB3 library with no hassle at all.
The biggest miracle that Rock Band Blitz has performed is that I’ve never experienced a song that wasn’t fun to play. Previously, the songs could always be hit or miss, especially on different instruments. What was fun on guitar wasn’t always fun on drums and vice-versa. By blending them all together, Blitz ensures that every song is fun to play.
Fusing all of the instruments into one could have easily decreased the replay of songs by a ton, but Harmonix has cleverly sidestepped this problem by adding power-ups to the equation. Power-ups consist of three categories: Overdrive, Note, and Track. Overdrive power-ups dictate what effects your overdrive meter has, be it doubling all of your points or even having a bandmate hit all of the notes on a specific instrument while you play on another. Note power-ups populate the note track with glowing notes that can do crazy things like blast away notes on other lanes or even summon a giant pinball which will have you switching lanes to keep in play. Track power-ups are more simple and can apply bonus scoring to specific tracks or give extra points when you switch lanes on measure markers. Changing combinations of power-ups keeps the gameplay feeling fresh and can add new dynamics to songs you’ve already played before.
It’s not all sunshine and roses with the power-up system, though. Using power-ups costs coins, which you earn by playing the game. That’s fine, but it leaves you playing songs and resigning yourself to having a bad score. That wouldn’t be so terrible if it wasn’t such a competitive game. Now, when you destroy your friends’ scores, there’s always that lingering doubt about whether or not they were just playing that song to grind for coins or actually going for a good score. It’s a disappointing situation where you and your friends can have totally different scoring capacities, but are still placed on the same leaderboard. That’s only going to matter for the highly-competitive minded, but having to grind for coins just to have another attempt at a leaderboard topping run will probably drive some people nuts.
[+Incredibly Addictive Fun] [+A Whole New Take on Rock Band] [+Highly Competitive Between Friends] [+Compatible With All of Your Existing DLC] [+Every Song is Fun] [+Power-ups Are Inventive and Fun To Use] [-Coin Costing Power-ups Necessitates Grinding]
Gliding down the city streets with colorful note tracks flying at you while music blasts through your TV speakers or headphones is simply delightful on all the senses. The framerate is flawless, too. The menus are as slick and well-designed as you’ve come to expect from Harmonix.
The same applies to the quality of the music. Most of these mixes have never been better and switching from instrument to instrument at will allows for a greater appreciation of the individual parts of the ensemble.
[+Great Visual Style] [+Flawless Framerate] [+Well-Designed Menus] [+Fantastic Music Quality]
I can’t underestimate the value in this package. An entirely different game to play all of your currently existing DLC in would be more than enough for $15, but combine that with the (pretty phenomenal) additional 25 songs that are included in Blitz that you also get to play with instruments in Rock Band 3, Blitz is a no-brainer.
If these songs were released as DLC with the standard pricing model, they would cost a whopping $50. Getting of all of that and a new game is borderline insane. Not to mention the countless hours I’ve already put into the game. That’s not even a drop in the bucket compared to how much I’m planning on playing it.
[+25 New Songs] [+Only $15] [+Almost Infinitely Replayable]
Rock Band Blitz is some of the most fun I’ve had with a game all year. Challenging friends to beat my score on songs like “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson may make me a horrible, sadistic person, but it’s also undeniably amusing. Blaring all of the best (worst!) pop songs through the house and singing along even though I don’t have to has characterized my entire weekend. And I loved every minute of it.
[+Incredibly Addictive Fun] [+A Whole New Take on Rock Band] [+Highly Competitive Between Friends] [+Compatible With All of Your Existing DLC] [+Every Song is Fun] [+Power-ups Are Inventive and Fun To Use] [+Great Visual Style] [+Flawless Framerate] [+Well-Designed Menus] [+Fantastic Music Quality] [+25 New Songs] [+Only $15] [+Almost Infinitely Replayable] [-Coin Costing Power-ups Necessitates Grinding]