Review: Lego Rock Band

I feel like the first thing I should say is that I am a big fan of Rock Band.  I enjoy playing it on my own or as part of a group, and have had some especially great times with the latter.  I am also fairly good at them as well.  I say this, as a form of disclaimer and a view into the mind behind the review you are about to read.  I find that with Rock Band games, and to the same extent Guitar Hero, you either love them or hate them and there is in many cases a direct link between that love/hate relationship and your ability to play one of the plastic instrumentals well (or sing for that matter).  As the music genre has shifted in recent months, this relationship actually seems more dramatic than ever; with Rock Band and Guitar Hero no longer appealing as much to the casual gamer.  So with all that in mind, let’s talk about Lego’s rocking out.

I remember when I first heard the concept of Lego Rock Band and I also remember asking almost immediately, “Why?”  It seemed very odd, perhaps even the kind of merger of properties that comes out of marketing meetings rather than design meetings.  My first inclination was that I would eventually pick up the game super cheap (which I did) and then make use of the export feature to significantly bolster my Rock Band 2 (or now 3) DLC collection for cheap, if I played the game much it would be just for some achievements and to see what it was all about.

Boy was I wrong.  I certainly didn’t expect when I finally sat down with my plastic guitar and turned the stereo up that I would find myself enjoying Rock Band in a way I hadn’t since I first played Rock Band 2.  The game’s mechanics are largely identical to its predecessors, with some minor changes I’ll touch on momentarily, but the game’s style was unique, refreshing, and full of charm.  Lego Rock Band is “for the kids” in a sense, but you do not have to be a kid to enjoy the elaborate sets you will rock out on, the large variety of “mini-figures” you can unlock to mix and match in order to build the coolest, or weirdest, looking band to ever rock without fingers, and the bonus animations and story lines that just make this game work on so many levels.  You don’t simply go to a new venue, play some songs, go to a new venue, play some songs, etc.  In almost every “level” of the game there is a “Rock Challenge” in which you must cure/stop/fix/solve some sort of problem by just rocking so damn good that you can literally control nature.  Some of these are obvious but fun moments, like playing “Ghostbusters” in the haunted mansion venue in order to drive away the ghost that are chasing your roadies.  (Another feature I was very fond of was the ability to customize your “crew” which will constantly make appearances in the game’s animations or simply hanging out in your “Rock Den.”  More than other Rock Band games, Lego Rock Band has a genuine story behind the tour mode.

Now lets get back to those slightly different game mechanics.  The most noticeable is the addition of a new difficulty, Super Easy.  While Super Easy is bound to bore even adult newbies, kids are going to appreciate it.  The name is very description, it doesn’t take much effort to ace a track on Super Easy, but it serves as a great way to help younger kids work on both their rhythm and timing so that they can actually move up to easy, and maybe even medium without constantly feeling overwhelmed.  The fact that they are even more likely to enjoy the animations on screen than you should help to draw them in as well. The other most notable change to the game mechanic is that all songs from the Lego Rock Band disc have a “short version” that you can switch to, meaning that little fingers that are bound to get tired faster can more easily finish songs.  This mode was also nice when towards the end of the tour and playing a fair number of 3 song set list. Keeping with the kid theme, Harmonix has made the soundtrack for Lego Rock Band very clean, both in terms of lyrics and song content, with a lot of songs kids are bound to recognized, like the previously mentioned “Ghostbusters,” or “Song 2” by Blur. (Some DLC will work with the game as well)  If you have kids, or like me you often game with your nieces and nephews, Lego Rock Band is a great game for transitioning them into one of the more “mature” offerings.

There were a few things I wasn’t crazy about though.  The biggest for me was that the game did not display difficulty of the songs you were about to play, or a list of songs, any time other than when you selected them yourself.  For someone of my skill, which is kind of on a borderline (where I can play expert on easy tracks, hard on medium tracks, and touch and go for the rest) not knowing the song difficulty makes picking a playing difficulty a roll of the dice.  Crashing and burning is annoying and playing an easy or medium song on medium is mind-numbingly boring.  I accept this on “Mystery Set list” but for the rest there is no reason for it.  I also found some of their song selections a bit odd for a track list that is supposed to be a bit more mainstream; there were plenty of bands/songs I’ve never heard of and I know most kids certainly haven’t.  (That being said, I mostly enjoyed the track list, this is just something likely to run counter to their attempt to get kids into the game.)  The last big issue that some gamers will not be a fan of is the lack of online capability in Lego Rock Band.  It is all done in your living room with this one.  This did not bother me in the least bit, especially since family-friendly DLC still works with the game, but for those used to taking their Rock Band experience online, this may prove to be a pretty big draw back.

The end result is that Lego Rock Band is a gimmicky title that not only works it actually manages to excel and refresh the core concept of the game.  Rock Band typically takes the whole thing pretty seriously, but at the end of the day you are sitting on your couch with a fake plastic guitar pretending to rock out to some great music; Lego Rock Band runs with this side of genre.  The “Let’s just have a good time” aspect of the Rock Band games, and it was so much fun to experience that so bluntly this time around it has certainly rekindled my interest in playing more Rock Band 3 than I have been.  This game can often be found for $14.99 or less, and the export cost 800 Microsoft points, and it is definitely worth it.

Final Rating: 8.5/10

CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: Xbox 360
Approximate Time to Completion: ~20 Hours
Gamer Score Earned: 820/1000
Price Bought at: $7.50
Current Price: $14.68 (Amazon)
Recommend Purchase Price: $14.99 or under is more than fair, if you find it new for under $10, grab it quick.

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