Game Review: Rock Band Unplugged (PSP)

rbuboxMy earliest experience with rhythm games came from Harmonix’ FreQuency and Amplitude, two titles for PS2 that were critically acclaimed, yet never really captured the attention of consumers.

Once Harmonix added a plastic guitar to the mix, everything changed.

Guitar Hero and Rock Band have become behemoths in the video game marketplace, selling untold amounts of downloadable songs, add-on packs, and filling your house with plastic instruments.

While I’ve enjoyed this new generation of music game, I’ve always wanted a true sequel to FreQuency and Amplitude.

Rock Band Unplugged eschews the bulky peripherals and makes the leap to a mobile platform. But is it a true spiritual successor to Harmonix’ original rhythm concepts?

Read the review, and I’ll let you know.

In case you’ve never played a rhythm game, I’ll give you the basic rundown, and then point out the differences between console based games and this portable edition.

As a song plays, notes travel down the screen towards you. When they reach the bottom of the screen you need to hit the appropriate buttons in time with the music.

Each instrument in the track is represented separately, and a missed note means that instrument drops out for a moment. Miss too many notes and you fail the song, requiring you to attempt it again.

How Unplugged deviates from it’s console brethren begins with a conspicuous lack of multiplayer.

With only four notes mapped to controller buttons, players start with a single instrument and can freely move between different intruments at will. Play a section of notes on a single track perfectly and that track is temporarily ‘complete’, no new notes will appear for that instrument for four ‘bars’, meaning you’ll need to switch to another instrument.

Complete all four instruments and you’ll get a nice score multiplier, the original track you completed will re-open, and you start the cycle again.

All of this should be VERY familiar to Frequency or Amplitude players.

Controls default to Left, Up, Triangle, and Circle to hit notes, and Left Bumper/Right Bumper to move between tracks. The X button fires of your Overdrive. If you’re not comfortable with that setup, all functions are completely configurable/mappable.

Game modes are limited, but the full ‘World Tour’ gameplay of console based Rock Band games is still there, as well as the store, fans, earning cash, and hiring employees.

Essentially, it’s Amplitude with a Rock Band face lift.

And that’s not a bad thing.

If you find yourself playing Rock Band or Guitar Hero by yourself (not being hung up on the party/social aspect of the game) or you’re a player that’s nostalgic for the early days of Harmonix, this is a no-brainer: BUY IT.

If you find yourself only playing rhythm games at parties, or you’re REALLY into playing out your Rock N Roll fantasies with a plastic guitar (complete with the requisite metal sneer), you’re probably going to be disappointed.

Me? I can’t wait to get back to the game.

Buy Rock Band Unplugged
Buy PSP Rock Band Unplugged Entertainment Pack

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