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Guitar Hero On Tour is a game that sounds like a brilliant idea on paper, but when face with it in real life doesn't quite work out. The same solid rhythm action game is there, but it now has to be delivered via a handheld interface subject to wobble, reflection and blur. Activision have certainly thought long and hard about this, even developing a bespoke four button fret add on, but is this enough?
In case you were absent for the last few years, Guitar Hero is the video game phenomenon that lets player strum, pluck and play along with a semi-realistic plastic guitar. After the breakthrough success of Guitar Hero on the PS2 and original Xbox and the battle with competitor Rockband, Activision are first to bring their franchise to a portable medium - the Nintendo DS.
Novelty controllers aside, Guitar Hero is a pretty down the line rhythm action game. These combine the enjoyment that comes from creating music with the challenge of video game scoring. The player is 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.
Guitar Hero On Tour aims to bring the stand up success from the consoles to Nintendo's already tactile handheld system.
Guitar Hero On Tour aims to bring the stand up success from the consoles to Nintendo's already tactile handheld system. As mentioned, the game comes complete with a peripheral that slots into the GBA slot on the DS to provide four guitar fret buttons and a holstered plectrum. This makes it possible to approximate a guitar like hold of the DS in portrait book mode.
But here at least the experience fell rather flat for me. Being an air guitar aficionado, I loved the console version of the game, that enabled me to strum away to my favourite songs in the privacy of my lounge. On the DS however I found myself wrestling against difficulty of seeing the LCD screen and the strum area. The more I 'rocked out' the harder it was to see the screen that inevitable waved around as I played. Worse than that, if I really took things to eleven, the cartridge on more than on e occasion came unplugged - meaning I had to instantly reset the game and start again.
In the right environment (sat down in a darkened room for me) Guitar Hero On Tour more than proves its worth. On the harder difficulty settings you can rediscover that classic Guitar Hero feel as you have to let go (very Star Wars I know) and use your instincts to hit all those notes. Although the peripheral doesn't make this experience entirely guitar like, without it these high speed, high accuracy songs would be impossible. Perhaps more Sitar than Guitar, but fun just the same.
As the game is structured around songs that last three to four minutes each you can pick it up for a quick blast in those spare moments. Those that are able to invest more time will inevitably get the most out of it however, as this allows your fingers some time to warm up and get into the strumming groove.
I had some head to head sessions, pitting my DS against other players that stretch out into the small hours. As my competitors learned a few tricks and our skill levels became similar some battles seemed to last for hours.
The bottom line however, is that there are other simpler better rhythm games already available on the DS.
That was with my friends, when it came to the family I was surprised to find the came less popular. the timing required for each note made it a little prohibitive for my kids to really get into. Although my other half gave it a good bash, she wasn't as taken with it as she was with the fully fledge console offerings.
Overall this is a valiant step into the handheld world of rhythm action games from Activision. The fret peripheral is well built and certainly adds plenty of novelty interest to the game. The bottom line however, is that there are other simpler better rhythm games already available on the DS. Elite Beat Agents for instance provides a much more suitable experience to the platform - largely because it doesn't constrain itself to one control metaphor. Guitar Hero On Tour is hampered by its franchise being so enmeshed with the guitar controller that simply doesn't fit well on the DS.
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