Guitar Hero: On Tour introduced the world of handheld gaming to the most conventional concept for portable modern rhythm games. Some players, however, didn’t like the idea of curling their fingers around a Nintendo DS in order to jam out some arthritic rock tracks. Harmonix has heard the cries of the carpal tunnel afflicted, and has thus created Rock Band: Unplugged. The musical millstone has been passed back onto your good ‘ol thumb.
Harkening back to the rhythm games of old, the face buttons of the PSP are utilized for Rock Band: Unplugged. As four familiar gems scroll down the screen, simply pressing the button that corresponds to each color will result in a success. No awkward strumming or attempts to sing into your handheld are necessary here. Remember Amplitude and Frequency? This is the same idea, just with a fresh coat of Rock Band paint splattered over it.
The appearance of the game is crisp and easy to look at. It’s what we’ve all become accustomed to; multicolored notes streaming down a black highway while pixilated musicians gyrate in the background. The rockers have obviously taken a graphical hit because of the leap to the handheld, but who’s honestly playing a Rock Band for the characters models?
The innovation in Rock Band: Unplugged is a unique one for a rhythm game. Using the shoulder buttons, wannabe traveling one-man-bands will flip between the song’s vocal, guitar, bass, and drum track. After hitting enough notes in a particular section, a large glowing note will appear, and hitting it will clear all notes from that track highway temporarily. After scoring high enough on a given track, players jump to repeat the process. If you’re blowin’ it on a particular track, the pressure is increased as you watch notes being missed on the other tracks in the background.
If you’re the kind of person who put on a headset to sing vocals while simultaneously playing guitar and using said guitar to bash on the drum kit, you’ve already experienced simultaneous track management. For the rest of us, Rock Band: Unplugged is the first real way to interact with different instrument tracks within a single song. The different tracks all boil down to simple streams of notes, but the tandem management of each provides variety to an otherwise mundane experience.
Come June 9th, if you’re looking for a fun way to listen to your favorite songs like “Carry on Wayward Son” by Kansas, “Drain You” by Nirvana, “A Perfect Drug” by NIN, and “Rock Your Socks” by Tenacious D, look no further than Rock Band: Unplugged.