June 22, 2008
Have you ever wanted to take Guitar Hero with you when you left your house? Maybe play it on an airplane?
With Guitar Hero On Tour, Activision is attempting to bring the Guitar Hero franchise to the Nintendo DS using a touchscreen interface and a guitar pick stylus teaming up with a new, sometimes awkward fret adapter that plugs into the DS’ Gameboy Advance slot.
The guitar fret adapter has a strap to attach it to your wrist so that it will hold the DS to you while you pick and strum away. The strap was one of the first things I had trouble with. It’s supposed to keep your DS steady so you don’t it while trying to play the guitar, allowing you more freedom for this portable device. Unfortunately, this puts off the stress and strain of any movement on the GBA connector. This would be fine with the original Game Boy, for instance,‚ that had a piece of plastic to stop the cartridge from being removed while the game was on. But here, there is nothing but the tight connection to hold the GBA cartridges in.
This means the fret adapter flies out of the unit, even sometimes during slight movements. This of course freezes the system and requires you to reset it and start over, which is especially annoying if
you are doing well.
The design of the controller also forces the player to hold it at an awkward angle, since you need to see the upper display to know what to play.‚ When I tried to move the DS around like the game suggests, holding it at different angles, it‚ became hard to see the screen.
The DS is also an added weight in the user’s palm that can make pressing the strum keys feel awkward.
Carpel tunnel anyone?
The design of the game and layout also could use some work. The creators obviously wanted to emulte the feel of the Original Guitar Hero Games, but the DS doesn’t really have the screen real estate to do what they attempted to do. They have the keys coming down like the other Guitar Hero games, with the virtual actors on stage behind. The problem with this is that the lower screen is entirely taken up with the strings that you need to strum. This leaves one screen to read what keys to press, and see the background movements. And, with the angle at which the notes‚ move across the screen, there is very little time between the player starting to see a key and having to press it. This is also made
awkward, again,‚ by the angle at which the DS is positioned when it’s attached to the user’s wrist.
Putting the issues of a first generation niche game aside,‚ it is still cool‚ to be able to play‚ Guitar Hero anywhere now, and the future versions will hopefully improve on some of these problems.‚
Personally, I‚ would like to‚ see a more minimalist display on the top screen, with just the keys you need to play, allowing them to be bigger and easier to see. Seeing the virtual character on stage isn’t needed for a DS game. Guitar Hero On Tour should model itself on many of the best DS games, which use minimalistic graphics.
Rock star wannabes everywhere should look forward to the next version that will hopefully fix these problems.
But for now, there are some.