The concept of bringing together Traveller’s Tales and Harmonix to create a “family friendly”, LEGO-themed Rock Band game is one that seems far-fetched, at best. They are two completely different developers that do not tend to share the same fan base. How would a coupling such as this be able to create a game that could satisfy either group of fans?
I myself walked into this review expecting nothing more than a Rock Band clone with LEGO characters, but was shocked to find so much more. Both developers have managed to fuse together what they do best to create a unique rhythm game experience that appeals to both young and old.
A wise man once said, “keep it simple, stupid”. Traveller’s Tales does just that by not changing up the basic Rock Band gameplay formula that Harmonix has already perfected. Anyone who’s played a previous game in the series will immediately be able to pick up a guitar, microphone, or pair of drumsticks, and start playing along to any of the 45 songs included.
When you begin, you can choose from typical gameplay modes, like Free Play or Tutorial Mode, but the real meat of this title lies in the Story Mode. This is where you’ll get to create a band of LEGO characters from scratch, and then rock your way through the LEGO universe to become the best group in the world – or maybe even the galaxy.
The big draw to Story Mode is the large amount of collectibles you unlock as you play more gigs, gain more fans, and earn more studs (the currency of the LEGO universe). This isn’t something you can do in one night, because there are literally hundreds of items to unlock. These include new LEGO characters, which you can mix and match to create new band members, entourage members (who find you new gigs and earn you more studs and fans) and furniture, which you can use to decorate your rock den.
The “rock den” is one of the new features Traveller’s Tales introduces to the Rock Band series. This is where your band members, entourage members, manager, friends, roadies, and pets all hang out when you aren’t on tour. With multiple rooms to decorate, and hundreds of items, such as chairs, posters, speakers, and even a full-sized T-Rex skeleton, you’ll be able to personalize your pad to make it your true throne of rock.
LEGO Rock Band really embraces its roots and uses the LEGO universe to create an atmosphere where anything can become reality. A great example is all the vehicles and venues you unlock as you move through the story. These include outlandish contraptions like a LEGO speedboat, hovercraft, submarine, and helicopter, which take you to places like a dinosaur-filled volcano top, a medieval castle, and even a haunted house. In total, there are nine vehicles, which take you to 19 venues to play 161 gigs.
Another feature introduced to the series is the “rock challenge”. These are essentially specific, scripted situations in which you have to use the power of rock to save the day. They range from outrunning an angry T-Rex, to stopping a vengeful squid that wants to destroy your pirate ship. Each plays out like a music video in which you must play as best you can to be triumphant. Band members actually take turns playing parts of the song, so the others can watch the action unfold on screen. It’s a blast to behold, thanks to the fact that these scenes are full of humor.
Humor is one thing that Traveller’s Tales knows how to do right, and this entire game is infused with it. Everything from the rock challenges, to the sporadic video interludes, to the loading screens, are all filled with humor that is sure to make the entire family burst out laughing.
Being a family friendly game, getting the tracklist just right had to be very difficult, which you can tell when you look at the mix of 45 songs that were chosen. They range from classic rock hits like “Summer of ’69″, “Free Fallin”, and “We Are the Champions”, to more trendy songs that can be heard frequently on the radio. There is also a handful of songs that just have absolutely no place being on the list, and don’t seem like the type of music that would ever be included in a Rock Band game.
It’s this weird mix of songs that really makes the tracklist hit or miss. Luckily, you can import 22 songs from the original Rock Band, and any DLC into the tracklist that are deemed “family friendly”. This helps stretch the tracklist out further to give it more depth and life. For $10, you can also import all of the game’s songs to the other titles in the series.
What’s important, though, is that all the tracks have the level of sound quality that you come to expect from a typical Harmonix game. The graphics aren’t really anything to get excited over, but they never have been a staple of the Rock Band series. It’s the music that’s supposed to impress, not the visuals.
You’ll probably be able to finish the story mode in about 13-15 hours, but that will only encompass maybe a third of the total gigs in the game, which leaves lots of music to be played, and hundreds of items to unlock. Don’t be scared away by the “family friendly” label though, because there is definitely a major challenge that exists here that many hardcore Rock Band fans will appreciate. You’ll be missing out if you think this is a kid’s game.
What makes LEGO Rock Band so unique is the way Harmonix and Traveller’s Tales have combined their strengths to create a game that delivers the best of what both developers have to offer. While the tracklist might be hit or miss, the game makes full use of the LEGO license, and instills a level of personality, charm, and humor, which simply cannot be found in any other rhythm game to date. What really brings it all together though is its mass appeal to both kids and adults that will have the entire family sitting around the TV together. Not many band games can claim that, which is why this is one title that can, and should, be enjoyed by all this holiday season.
Prepare to be immersed into the LEGO universe like never before. Everything from the characters, to the vehicles, venues, and even the notes themselves are all created from those amazing blocks and infused with a level of charm and humor that only Traveller's Tales could instill.
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Harmonix plays it safe by not changing up the tried and true 4-player gameplay formula, which has made the Rock Band series so popular. Many tracks offer multiple levels of difficulty, which will challenge even the most hardcore.
Harmonix sets the standard for sound quality in rhythm games, and this one continues to live up to that level.
With 45 songs, hundreds of unlockables, and 161 gigs to play in story mode, you'll easily get tons of hours out of this game. Unfortunately, the tracklist is hit or miss, so that might detract from how much life this title has.
Traveller's Tales has once again combined a popular game series with the world of LEGOs, adding their own brand of humor and personality to create a one-of-a-kind band experience that can be enjoyed by families and hardcore rhythm gamers alike.