There are so many ways one can play a Rock Band game. Over the years, Rock Band games have given players the chance to live out their fantasies and be rock stars in their living rooms whether as lead guitarists, expert drummers, or main vocalists. It’s interesting, then, that Harmonix’s latest Rock Band game is a departure from this formula, letting go of its usual instrument-based gameplay. But don’t judge this game as a watered down version of its predecessors – Rock Band Blitz will keep you on your toes.
Published by: Harmonix
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network
What works: Addicting format, backwards compatibility with Rock Band library
What doesn’t work: Too dependent on online features, lack of a true multiplayer mode
Like in previous games, you’ll need to score high on a song by being as accurate as possible and deploy helpful boosts to maximize your score. The game takes place on a vibrant scrolling highway, reminiscent of Harmonix’s older games Frequency and Amplitude, where you’ll see the notes for all five instruments scroll down at you. But unlike in a traditional Rock Band, each instrument’s lane only has two notes to hit. Sounds easy, right? Not quite.
Blitz still requires sharp reflexes and fast fingers, and to get a high score on each song, you’ll need to switch lanes in order to hit as many notes as possible. You won’t get penalized for missing notes, because, frankly, it’s impossible to hit every note that’s thrown at you, but hitting as many notes as possible for one instrument increases its multiplier, which nets you more points per note you hit. Songs are also split into different sections, and once you reach a checkpoint, the max possible multiplier level will increase and you’ll need to keep hitting notes and repeat this process. Simply focusing on a few instruments and ignoring others will thwart your max multiplier from increasing, so you’ll need to be constantly moving between tracks to triumph.
To add to the frenetic frenzy, Blitz also includes three different types of power-ups that further help increase your high score. Overdrive power-ups grant you special abilities when you increase your Overdrive bar such as a rocket launcher to hit notes off in a distance, a band mate to play notes on one lane, or a temporary multiplier boost. You can also select note power-ups that show up randomly and reward hitting blinking notes as often as you can. Lastly, instrument power-ups passively boost your score on a specific instrument’s lane throughout a song. There’s a subtle strategy in figuring out which power-ups will net you most points or which ones complement each other the best. Finishing a song also gets you coins, so sometimes you’ll be playing songs for fun and without power-ups simply to replenish your coin supply.
As I mentioned earlier, Blitz will keep your senses sharp because you’ll constantly be switching instruments, deploying power-ups, and closely watching your multiplier to see what instrument needs boosting. Hitting notes without missing in succession will also let you enter Blitz mode, which changes the camera angle, making it harder to hit notes but also boosting the points you get per note you hit. Unlike in past games, you can’t change the difficulty of a song, but you can never “fail” a song either, making songs equally accessible and inaccessible for beginners at the same time. The game’s format is easy to learn, but knowing what power-ups to deploy and when to switch lanes to maximize your score takes plenty of coins to master.
Blitz is compatible with all previously released Rock Band songs, meaning your entire library of DLC tracks can be enjoyed as soon as you start the game. Not every song suits Blitz’s format, however, especially those with long instrumental pauses, but every track we played was captured accurately even with the game’s minimal two-note-per-lane format. Additionally, all 25 songs that come with game, ranging from hits from Elton John to Foster the People, can also be played on Rock Band 3, giving Rock Band players an easy excuse to pick up the game and save big on the cost of individually purchasing each track.
Despite simplifying the Rock Band experience and making songs playable with just one controller, Harmonix has devised an intricately layered rhythm game that’s quite hard to put down. Heavily focused on high-scores and Score Wars, it is a game centered on competition, and despite relying on an internet connection and Facebook account to give players a complete experience, Blitz does a great job of giving you enough incentives to go back and play another song every time.