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When I first heard that the Guitar Hero franchise was coming to the DS my reaction was less than favourable. In fact, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of utter incredulity and disbelief that a handheld system could possibly do the Guitar Hero games justice. But thanks to the obvious care and attention taken with this project I was amazed to find a deep and rewarding experience with this DS version.
Essentially taking away the key component to the game would seem to be a backward step and a critical misjudgement. But the small attachment bundled with the game does an excellent job of conveying the same feeling I get when rocking out with my Les Paul on Guitar Hero 3. Although the social, living room experience has been lost to some degree I found that people would still happily stop and stare whenever I played this in the vicinity of anyone looking. Sometimes that happiness would boil down into pointing and laughing, but what the hell - if youíre going to play a plastic instrument for fun you have to expect people to poke fun at you.
I found the practical business of playing On Tour pretty good - in short bursts. The Guitar Grip snaps into the GBA slot and puts four buttons across the base of the system. I found it easy to strap on and fit a finger over each one and then use the supplied pick to strum on the touchscreen. It was a system that worked surprisingly well and was responsive and accurate. The problems came from holding the system. It might be my big hands but I found the DS becoming unwieldy after more than 20 minutes of play, followed by some painful bouts of cramp.
the small attachment bundled with the game does an excellent job of conveying the same feeling I get when rocking out with my Les Paul on Guitar Hero 3
Itís difficult for me to blame the game too much for this. Getting a Guitar Hero experience onto the DS isnít easy and I feel like On Tour did the best any game could possible achieve in getting that feeling right. But the practical nature of holding a DS like a clawed monster holding a pearl meant my play-time was limited to short bursts. Thereís also a slight problem with having the screen of the game essentially being the guitar as well. If youíre anything like me then youíll be moving about, jumping up and down like all good rock stars do. Problem is, the screen jumps about as well and watching the note tracking becomes a little difficult at the best of times.
These concerns sounds like they would spoil the game completely but I found myself willing to forgive On Tour for all its sins because the feeling I got from the game was so great. There are 25 tracks included in the game and they cover a wide variety of genres and styles. There was some ghastly kid-friendly stuff that my little brother would like but also some songs more up my street and familiar to Guitar Hero veterans. The audio isnít near the same quality as on the home consoles but for the DS I was happy with how the tracks sounded. It almost goes without saying that headphones are the only way to play the game as I found that putting the music through the speakers made my experience more difficult - probably because I was too conscious of how tinny everything sounded.
I never expected anything so entertaining and an experience so close to a console Guitar Hero on a handheld.
Multiplayer was a surprising addition, though it was only for local wireless play, and I found it enjoyable in co-op or the more challenging Guitar Duel option. These options gave the game a bit more life as I found the 25 tracks in the singleplayer game becoming tedious quite quickly. My only problem was finding a fellow DS owner who didnít mind looking just as much as a fool as me when rocking out on the bus.
Despite expecting nothing more than a very cheap cash-in on the license I found On Tour hugely entertaining. It has a few problems inherent to putting a peripheral-dependent rhythm game on the DS, but the core experience more than made up for these shortcomings. I never expected anything so entertaining and an experience so close to a console Guitar Hero on a handheld. Beyond the awkward looking peripheral is a real rhythm game experience that's fun and unexpectedly enjoyable.
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.
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