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If you are going to make a music game about The Beatles then you have to be sure that's is going to be nothing more than utterly perfect. But this game wasn't just an aurally awesome experience, it was a visually mesmeric feast as well. It brought an amazing intepretation of the Fab Four's work into my living room and made everyone, from my Auntie to my son, pick up a music controller and join in with the fun.
Usually with Rock Band or Guitar Hero I'm banished to my special room so that the constant click of the strum bar or thud of the drums doesn't wake the baby or irritate my other half. There's nothing quite like failing a song because someone literally pulled the plug halfway through an epic Metallica rendition. This being the case I rarely get the chance to pour my heart and soul into a music game, much less involved my family in a positive way.
All that changed with Beatles Rock Band. From the moment the first few bars of 'Hard Day's Night' pumped from the speakers, my Xbox360, drums, guitar and microphone were pulled straight into the living room and our very own Cavern Club was set up. But it wasn't just the music that grabbed everyone to entertain my hobby. The opening cinematic that quickly showed the stratospheric rise of The Beatles in a montage of animation and photos was simply breathtaking and it left everyone in the room with goosebumps going down their back. Even my son thought the stomping elephant was fun!
This was all it took to encourage my family to pick up an instrument and play along. The sight of seeing my other half grab the microphone without a second thought and launch into her own rendition of 'Ticket to Ride' was one of the greatest gaming experiences I've ever had. Why? Because this kind of participation simply doesn't happen in my house. Usually it's a question of getting friends over and shooing everyone else out of the room, but having my parents, my children and even a stray Aunt to show genuine interest was a sign that this is something special.
The sight of seeing my other half grab the microphone without a second thought and launch into her own rendition of 'Ticket to Ride' was one of the greatest gaming experiences I've ever had.
Of course, most of the attraction is down to the music of The Beatles themselves and it helps that everyone in the family is a big fan. But what struck us all was the quality of the visual scenes going on whilst we played the game. This isn't something I've ever felt before about a music game. It's the band or the artist that's important - the visuals behind the note-tracking bar mean nothing when you're concentrating so hard on the game. Even before we got the Abbey Road Studios part of the game, the early concerts at Shea Stadium, The Ed Sullivan Show or Budokan, Japan were lovingly put together and seeing the Fab Four in all their animated glory was pretty special. But it was the interpretation of the later Beatles songs that really showed how evocative and beautiful the visuals could be.
These scenes in particular began in the recording studio, then morphing into a vibrantly coloured soundscape which matched the theme of the song perfectly. From the psychedelic kaleidoscopic style of 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' to the underwater beauty of 'Yellow Submarine', these mesmeric sections made us want to put our controllers down and just watch the visual performances. Sadly that's not an option in the game which meant I had to play solo guitar for most of the game just so everyone else could ogle the videos. Such is the burden of being the gamer in the family.
But what struck us all was the quality of the visual scenes going on whilst we played the game.
I assumed that the active part of playing the game was going to be satisfying and Beatles Rock Band didn't let me down. The songs were just as fun to play as they were to watch and listen to. They were also very easy - which isn't a criticism at all. Putting the songs on expert still represent a tough challenge, but the easy mode meant everyone could join in and have lots of fun playing with each other.
And that's the most important thing for a music game and Beatles Rock Band captures the right essence of showing off these great songs and making it fun and entertaining at the same time. It's impossible not to smile or laugh when playing along to 'Sgt. Pepper' or 'Octopus' Garden'. What made this even better was how that dynamic changed when 'Here Comes the Sun' or 'My Guitar Gently Weeps' came on. Maybe it's because George Harrison is no longer alive, or that his songs have a depth completely different to that of other Beatles songs, but we found it hard not to be moved when playing these.
the thrill of seeing him on drums, my other half on vocals, and my dad on guitar as they clicked and bashed their way through some of the most iconic music ever made will stay with me forever.
This example is a testament to how Beatles Rock Band hit the mark with its interpretation of these great songs and the band that made them. It might be wishful thinking but I can see this game changing people's perception of The Beatles as it covers their early works all the way through the Abbey Road days until the very end in three hours. My son is already fascinated by this music and the thrill of seeing him on drums, my other half on vocals, and my dad on guitar as they clicked and bashed their way through some of the most iconic music ever made will stay with me forever.
Thanks to its accessibility and glorious presentation, Beatles Rock Band managed to bring the family together over a genre of game that usually left them cold and me locked away in my study. It may sound as if I'm labouring the point but this game represents the pinnacle of my family gaming history so far. It was instantly easy to understand, fun to play and gave everyone a chance to escape reality in an entertaining and active way. To me that embodies the spirit of family gaming like nothing else.
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