Support Andy, click to buy via us...
Rockband lets players strum, pluck and play along to their favourite music with a semi-realistic plastic instrument. It is developed by Harmonix, the team behind the ground breaking title that introduced the world to play-along video game instruments - Guitar Hero. After Guitar Hero's run away success the team were brought by MTV and developed Rockband. Guitar Hero continues to be developed by Neversoft and is now Rockband's main competitor.
Rhythm action games combine the enjoyment that comes from creating music with the challenge of video game scoring. The player is usually tasked with dancing on a mat, tapping a touch screen, pressing a button, singing into a mic or strumming a fake guitar controller in time with the music.
The original Guitar Hero paved the way for Rockband, proving that peripherals mattered in rhythm action games - bringing added realism and novelty to the game play. Rockband builds on this premise by amending a drum kit and microphone to complement the lead and bass guitar. This gives Rockband the edge for multi-player full band experience (which Guitar Hero doesn't offer until version four.
Although this similar to other Harmonix previous band based games, by leveraging its MTV music industry connections Rockband provides an impressive array of downloadable music to play in an iTunes like store.
As with many of these peripheral led games, Rockband is not cheap. The guitar, drums and microphone can be purchased separately or together, and cost around GBP 99.99, on top of the GBP 39.99 game price.
The genius of Rockband is that it convinces the player that they are playing the music, without them having to actually play every note. Miss hit a few notes and the game's clanks and twangs soon let you know about it.
Stood in your living room, playing along to your favourite bands with a few friends is a social gaming experience that is unlike playing other types of games. The mix of camaraderie and competitiveness between band members, and the opportunity for the musically untalented masses to play semi-real instruments is worth the entrance price alone.
The game is structured around songs that last three to four minutes each. If you only have 15 minutes to play you can knock out a few tracks. To get the most out of it however you need a good hour to warm up those fingers.
Full band sessions may require a little longer. Not only in getting everyone in the same place on time but also achieving a good score on a song with so many players involved can take a few tries.
The timing required by Rockband makes it a little prohibitive for very young players. That said, provided you have a reasonably musical ear, a sufficient hand span to reach the controls, and select an easier setting you should be able to enjoy it regardless of your gaming experience. It's also a great, low impact, way of introducing family members to music.
Older players may initially feel a little silly playing along to a video game with a fake plastic instrument, but given a little time most will warm to the experience.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: