EA, MTV Games and Harmonix bring their addictive brand of music-making to the small stage on Apple's iPhone.
This feature-heavy entry boasts 20 licensed tracks, retains most of the modes and intuitive play from the console versions, and loses little of the magic that makes the series such a head-banging blast.
Band in Your Hand: Four instruments-guitar, bass, drums, vocals, 20 tracks, world tour, quick play, multiplayer, and even a music store make the jump to Apple's slick portable. Despite the absence of plastic peripherals and avatars , Rock Band on iPhone, well...rocks!
On-the-go stars can climb the solo career path with all four instruments, or just jump into a single jam in quick play mode. A great track list, featuring such artists as Foo Fighters, Joan Jett, Smashing Pumpkins, and the Pixies, is unlocked as you tackle the solo tour on any of three difficulty settings. And, if you can round up some iPhone-owning band mates (who've also downloaded the game), you can rock out over Bluetooth. One of the cooler features, though, is the music store, which already has 14 new tracks-they're purchased in pairs for a wallet-friendly 99 cents. If the series' support on consoles is any indication, iPhones will soon become veritable jukeboxes of Rock Band-supported tunes.
Tactile Tuneage: As good as the PSP version of Rock Band was, it sacrificed some of the fun by losing the fake instruments. While the iPhone port doesn't exactly put a plastic axe in your hands, it does make great use of the device's touch screen. Coupled with the familiar fret and drum lines, the four touch bars and pads running along the bottom of the screen allow for an amazing amount of satisfying interaction. Holding your iPhone vertically, both your thumbs get one hell of a workout as they frantically keep up with the music racing towards them. Amping the immersion even further is point-boosting overdrive mode, which requires a little shake of the device for activation.
Voiceless Vocals: Shredding and drumming offer more than enough room-rattling thrills, but the vocal gameplay falls flatter than an inebriated stage-diver. Without any type of microphone support, you're subjected to a lame tapping game that's little more than a tweaked version of the other instruments' play modes. While similar mechanics work great for drums, guitar, and bass, they just don't cut it for vocals, where intricacies such as pitch actually affect your performance on the console versions. If you're not going to let us hone our singing chops, why even bother with vocal play?.
Despite falling slightly short of the console versions, and sporting an expensive-for-an-App $9.99 price tag, Rock Band is an easy recommendation. I played through the world tour mode in the middle of the night, in an abandoned NYC Pennsylvania Station. At 2:30AM, working on little sleep, and dreading the long train trip ahead, I fired it up and soon caught myself bouncing to Joan Jett's Bad Reputation in my uncomfortable waiting-area chair. Trust me-that's quite an endorsement.
Rock Band was developed by EA Mobile and published by EA and MTV Games for iPhone in October. Retails for $9.99. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed World Tour mode on easy, normal and hard difficulty settings with all four instruments. Also participated in several multiplayer games
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