The Harmonix booth was an absolute non stop party this year at PAX East. You could hear the tunes cranking from halfway across the show floor as crowds gathered to watch convention goers live out their rock star dreams and perform on stage. But hidden in the crowd lied PAX‘s biggest secret.
As a fan of Amplitude, my first question for the nearby Harmonix reps were about similarities between that and the newly announced Rock Band Blitz. As it turns out, aside from having the same developer and core concept, the two are completely different games. Where as Amplitude is about clearing out tracks, avoiding failure, and racking up a high score, Rock Band Blitz seems like more of an introduction to the Rock Band franchise, which is now four and a half years old. My nostalgia even flared up after several sessions with the demo, reminiscing of nights when my band threw on their plastic instruments and rocked all night. If this is how Harmonix wants to revitalize the franchise, they’ve found the perfect outlet.
Gameplay for Rock Band Blitz is essentially quite simple: instead of fumbling around with plastic instruments and struggling to comprehend note tracks, you’re instead given two different notes to play per instrument track, which I played using the A button and D-Pad. You are able to switch between tracks on the fly, but for those who are just looking to strum on the guitar or groove a bass beat, you can stay on one instrument track and not fail out of the song, regardless of how many notes you miss. While some music genre fans may cry out this gameplay as casual, they’ll be happy to know there’s plenty of challenge to be found within the game.
See, as anyone can attest to, aiming to make a new high score is incredibly addicting and that’s no different in Rock Band Blitz. You’ll be able to maximize your score by clearing enough successful notes on each track; the more notes you clear out before the next “chapter” of the song, the higher the multiplier you’ll earn for each instrument track. In addition, songs that have fast rhythm on all five instruments will provide a sturdy challenge, regardless of the temp of the actual song. Even playing through “Never Gonna Give You Up,” something that doesn’t scream hard, proved to be quite a challenge as you maneuvered your way across the song chart. This is partially due to the fact that there’s no “easy” or “medium” difficulty; each song has a full track that, as you’d expect from Harmonix, matches the actual notes in the song perfectly.
But you won’t just have to deal with insane guitar riffs as you play songs such as “Raining Blood.” Harmonix has thrown in various power-ups as you play through the song, ranging from automatically clearing out notes for points or even a pinball you attempt to keep going throughout the chart. It’s zaniness like this that adds to the charm and entertainment value of the upcoming XBLA and PSN title; I’m sure there’ll be plenty of drunken stupors to where there’ll be contests to see how long someone can keep the pinball going alone.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of Rock Band Blitz is the support for Rock Band‘s DLC: every downloaded song will be available to use with the title, plus all 25 songs specially made for Rock Band Blitz will be able to be exported for Rock Band 3. It seems as though Harmonix is ready to bring back Rock Band in a big way and I can’t say how excited I am to get more hands on with the title. The desire for gold stars has returned and in a big way; Rock Band Blitz is due out for XBLA and PSN later this year.