While Electronic Arts may have lost confidence in the Rock Band franchise, developer Harmonix certainly hasn’t; using it to launch a brand new virtual platform is a strikingly bold move. The recently released Rock Band Blitz functions less like a traditional Rock Band videogame and more like Harmonix’s earlier titles, Amplitude and Frequency, but in that same regard it’s also comparable to Zen Studios’ Pinball FX and Zen Pinball 2, in that the downloadable title is merely a platform on which bigger and better things can happen.
The initial Rock Band Blitz Xbox LIVE Arcade release comes with twenty-five songs presented as a downloadable content (DLC) pack atop the initial platform download, suggesting that future releases might offer different tracks. But as Rock Band Blitz is compatible with all existing Rock Band tracks – both downloadable and on-disc – it’s already possible to see Harmonix’s intentions to gift this new venture with longevity. And given that playing new songs offers an additional score multiplier, it’s clear to see that the developer wants gamers to become involved with Rock Band Blitz’s community.
The videogame is played on the control pad, with a different lane representing each instrument/vocal track in the chosen song. Each lane has two possible channels for notes to appear in, played with either the D-Pad or left analogue stick, A button (X on PlayStation 3) or right analogue stick. The shoulder triggers or buttons to scroll between lanes, which the player will be doing with remarkable regularity. See, Rock Band Blitz isn’t a videogame about hitting every note, instead it’s more concerned with working out which notes will be most beneficial to your high score attempt.
Each lane has its own score multiplier that increases with successive notes hit on time (though isn’t lost through missed notes) and as the player passes through checkpoints along the song they must ensure that each lane is above the required multiplier score. Boosting your score multiplier in all lanes is key to success of course, but concentrating your efforts on a single lane once past the initial level requirements can also be beneficial. It’s up to the player to figure out whether an even spread will pay bigger dividends than specialising in one lane, and the correct answer to this question will again depend largely on the track being played.
In order to boost your score Rock Band Blitz offers a number of power-ups that are purchasable with the coins earned through progress. Each lane will present a number of silver notes in each track, and hitting these silver notes will add power to your purchased power-ups. Some are executed automatically when available and others require a press of the X button (Square on PlayStation 3). The 2X score multiplier offers an obvious effect, but the bandmate power-up which takes control of an entirely lane for as long as your power lasts is an early representation of just how helpful these abilities can be.
Rock Band Blitz is hardly remarkable in its visual delivery, with a similar cityscape backdrop playing host to every track included. While the importance of Rock Band Blitz lies on its lanes, which are distinctive and precise enough, it’s clear that the technical effort can be attributed elsewhere: the integration of existing Rock Band tracks and the Rock Band World service made available via Facebook connectivity. The multiplayer gameplay included is a welcome addition to the videogame, seeing players face-off in a score competition, but there is nothing here that compares to the virtual band experience of Rock Band.
Rock Band Blitz is a welcoming addition to the Rock Band franchise, but Electronic Theatre does wonder why the branding was necessary. Gamers that are likely to be the quickest to adopt the franchise will surely be knowledgeable of the heritage of the gameplay design template, and thus ready to invest regardless. Those less enamoured with the industry may find themselves feeling mislead by Rock Band Blitz, as it simply isn’t a true Rock Band experience in any regard. Outside of the brand, Rock Band Blitz provides a familiar rhythm action videogame that will surely be welcomed by any gamer with a passion for the genre born before their first Guitar Hero experience.