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Disney's Ultimate Band for Nintendo Wii is a game that circumnavigates my reservations about buying music games. I live in a fair sized apartment but space remains limited and the walls remain thin. After ten at night my girlfriend starts to panic about any noises we make out of an ingrained consideration to the other residents of our building.
Ultimate Band eliminates both the need for bulky equipment and pounding on pads. It provides solutions to both of the problems Japanese societal niceties have imposed upon me. Could this Disney title actually provide me with the music experience I have been trying to find since the craze kicked off in the rest of the world?
Picking up the game box it didn't look hopeful. Generic Disney-sanitised teens dominated the cover, music taken from some of the worst modern dross (okay, that's unfair but not to my taste) and even these shining examples of the last ten years of music are covers by unnamed bands (Avril Lavigne Complicated sung by a man anyone?) Okay, I admit, occasionally I found my foot tapping along to a few of the tracks, but the game's story mode requires you play most songs at least twice (with different instruments) to progress and unlock more music, and my foot was not that into it.
The Disney teen avatars grinned at me from the options screen.
Bored of hacking away at the initial three songs I decided to customise my band. The Disney teen avatars grinned at me from the options screen, I wanted to make these thinks more human. Now correct me if I am wrong, but build means body shape, right? According to Disney I have been incorrect in my understanding of the word, apparently it means gender and skin tone. Now I am a big man. I am not a Disney waif, and while I accept that I have to be young I would at least like the option of beefing up my to a little less than waif like. Basically avatars have to be beautiful, I know it is easier to create a consistent look this way but this game will not do any children with low self-esteem or poor body image any favours.
Now I may sound negative but Ultimate Band is fun. Waving my arms around to music is actually more entertaining than I imagined it would be. Drums and lead guitar work better than I imagined they would, and it is only when the subtler controls came in to play that everything started to get ropy.
The basic game mechanics are actually okay, the gestural controls are accurate enough to mean that you will hit the majority of notes you feel you should, with the weaknesses revolving around the nunchuck motions. The Wii-mote's cabled companion works, but due to its shape and weight I frequently seemed to struggle making it recognise horizontal gestures. This proved a real problem when only one instrument (lead guitar) didn't rely on this motion.
It is a Disney game designed to appeal to young audiences, among whose number I can no longer count myself.
My occasional misses of the left cymbal (due to poor controls) were not enough to stop me enjoying my drum related flailing. Even the few occasions when I nearly hit other players in the face during my exuberant thrashing were not enough to slow me down. What eventually did bring me out of the experiences was that human beings are simply not built to do the motions game encourages without resistance. Pumping your fist or swinging your arms repeatedly is all well and good for a while, but eventually your joints will start to ache if there is nothing to stop you.
Combine the pain Ultimate Band gifted to my body with the horrors it visited on my ears and the games appeal was limited, but I know it is not really designed for me. There is no point beating around the bush on this point. It is a Disney game designed to appeal to young audiences, among whose number I can no longer count myself. It is a simple game with a heavy focus on playing together and I can imagine for a young family it could be a fun title to introduce some simple music principles, while providing a cheap alternative to other music games on the market.
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