Thursday, 15 July 2010

Guitar hero: On tour review

It has (once again) been quite a while since I blogged. So to remind myself what it's like to use the blogger software and to help achieve my goal aiding potential employers by having all of my writings in one place; here is a review I wrote for the TVUSU magazine about 2 years ago. Enjoy.

 You know something is awry with guitar hero – on tour almost as soon as you first switch on the power. A rather colourful warning is displayed espousing the necessity of regular rests, followed by a further warning suggesting how best to hold your DS while playing. If you hadn’t already worked it out, Activision are letting you know that for all that the guitar hero franchise is, one thing it isn’t is ergonomic!

To put it in plain text, the ingenious attachment that Red Octane have devised for use with their portable incarnation of a multi million selling game is supremely uncomfortable. This isn’t out of bad design either, the strap around your hand has to sit so tightly so save you smashing £100 worth of DS lite all over the train platform and the buttons sit almost as well as could be expected (though to make the angle between the buttons and the users fingers a little less than right would have been pleasant). The problem is quite simply that the format does not transfer as well to a handheld format as one might expect.

Of course, the tardy and dedicated reviewer that I am, I persevered on through the RSI (which in the days of the Wii is little more than an occupational hazard anyway) to find out how valid an addition to the series ‘on tour’ is.
Due to the limited amount of space on a DS cartridge, the career song list is limited to 5 venues which between them house 25 songs spread over the 4 difficulties now familiar to guitar hero veterans. This in itself is no bad thing and completely excusable. What however (to me at least) was completely inexcusable was recycling songs from guitar hero 3, especially as (despite the missing button) the charts for the songs felt so similar. This would all be well and good if only newcomers to the series were expected to play, the problem with this approach is that isolates those fans of the series that don’t want to be playing the same songs again.

The game play itself should be very familiar fare, even to many who don’t themselves own a video games console. Notes move along the screen in time with the music and as the notes reach a marker, the player ‘strums’ (using a special plectrum shaped stylus) while holding the button whose colour corresponds with that of the note.
    Guitar Hero-On Tour offers three single player modes; I will spend little time discussing the obligatory career and quick play settings, as they are fairly simple and indeed quite self explanatory. What does deserve some column inches though, is the new battle mode. Not quite a new thing in itself (Guitar Hero 3 had three ‘boss’ battles against guitar legends and… Satan) what is different here is the fact that you can play any unlocked song against a CPU controlled adversary. In this you can gain the upper hand by launching power-ups at your opponent to temporarily disadvantage them. Unfortunately, like every other good idea in this game, it just doesn’t work well enough. To activate the power ups, or in some cases to recover from those that your enemy has hindered you with, you need to perform actions on the touch screen, while the song continues running on the other side! This makes using or recovering from power-ups nigh on impossible. While disappointing, it’s hard to see exactly what Red Octane could have done better.

So, to conclude, I wouldn’t really recommend this game to fans of the series, as it’s just not in depth enough to really offer value for money. That said I wouldn’t recommend it do newcomers either. The awkward design of the controller may well put you off learning and the track-list just isn’t inspiring enough to draw you through the game. A shame as nothing has really been done badly, it just probably would have been better off not being done at all.


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