PSP: Rock Band Unplugged
Published by Electronic Arts
Developed by Backbone, Harmonix Music Systems
ESRB Rating: T for Teens
If you are what you say you are, a Superstar…
A few years back when the music genre took off I never really got into it. I understood the appeal, especially when you throw friends into the mix, but it was just never my cup of tea. Then came Rockband Unplugged for the PSP. The game didn’t require any additional equipment and it was for a portable device. The biggest question I’m sure is: can it live up to the standards found in the home console versions? Does it rock or should this band get off the stage?
I’ve never played the home console versions, so this is my first time experiencing Rockband on any level and I must say that it is indeed a very fun title. As the name implies you take control of a four person band: vocal, guitar, bass and drums. You will have to play all instruments simultaneously in songs, you don’t just choose to be the drummer or vocalist, and you’ll be switching between instruments during the songs. It sounds difficult but it’s not as bad as it sounds and the tutorial does an excellent job of walking you through it.
Once you start the TOUR mode you’re able to name your band and band members as well as rename the members and change their gear. Of course new gear costs money so don’t expect to really have a distinguishable look from the get-go. My band was Digital Coma and our hometown was Dublin. As you progress you’ll unlock more songs and different venues. Your ultimate goal is to become a headlining band and you’ll have to recruit different managers along the way. Their roles in the game aren’t superficial either as some of them will boost your fan rate at shows while others boost cash and other little perks.
The gameplay is laid out like similar music games where prompts come streaming down the line and you have to use timing to enter the appropriate chord. The default layout works pretty well (left, up on the D-pad and square and triangle) with L & R used to switch instruments. On the subject of instruments, here’s how the game works: each instrument has a bar and your goal is to keep that bar from depleting as you play, to do so you’ll need to successfully complete a leg of said instrument so that it will go on auto play for awhile which will allow you to switch to another instrument. There’s also an overdrive mode which can be used to boost all your instruments to full to help you out if your instruments are failing.
While playing you do see your band rocking out on stage but it’s not a whole lot of animations so eventually you’ll not even care to glance at them unless you changed their outfits. Speaking of outfits there’s quite a bit of gear to unlock; from outfits to hairstyles to new instruments.
Rockband isn’t really a technical demanding game. The graphics are crisp but as I mentioned above, there’s not too much going on on-stage while you perform. The most exciting thing to see are the stage layouts and while they can be cool, it’s not really exciting. The SFX are good and the music quality great. What I do like is if you miss notes you will hear the instrument you’re using be mute from the song. For example; you’re on drums and miss a few you will still hear the song going but you won’t hear the drums part of the song. As with the home versions you can download songs from within the game or directly from the PSN store. My one complaint (aside from the $1.99 per song fee) is that the Tour mode doesn’t incorporate your downloaded songs. You do have the “make a setlist” events in Tour mode where you can add them but it would’ve been nicer if they were implemented into tour mode beyond that. A disappointing omission is multiplayer. Considering that the console versions were all about rocking with friends, it’s a bit odd that Rockband Unplugged does not support any type of multiplayer, even an adhoc only multiplayer would be welcome for a group of friends that all have PSPs.
Like all games in this genre the real make it or break it is the song list. The song list is 90% of the enjoyment so if you don’t care for the songs this game isn’t going to make you a fan. There was a good effort to blend in different songs instead of sticking to any on genre of group music. As someone that didn’t really jump on the music genre bandwagon, I was pleasantly surprised and addicted to carrying my band to the top of the charts! Some form of multiplayer would’ve been nice, but that personally didn’t bother me.
Worth It? It’s a great alternative to the home versions and it’s a fraction of the cost- go for it and unleash your inner rockstar!