Do you know what good pain is?
Good pain is when your fingers are sore, your feet are hurting, your back is aching, your ears are ringing, and you're - if you're anything like me, i.e. not in good shape at all - feeling quite out of breath.
And you just loved
every second of the cause of all this pain.
Especially because the newspapers gave you that 5-star review you've been spending so much time to get. Or when you've been getting through that sadistic passage of a solo that proves that rock'n roll is Satan's work, because only the devil could have written such a diabolically difficult piece of music. In short, the pain you're going through is turned into something good thanks to an adrenaline rush of pure rock'n roll.
This is the sort of pain you can get when you play Guitar Hero.
Like Tetris and a few other games, the gameplay mechanics are deceptively simple. And no relatively objective description can do this game justice. You've got a peripheral controller shaped like a guitar, with five fret buttons on the neck and strum button on the body. By pressing the frets and strumming the strum, you'll be trying to play the notes as they will scroll downwards on the screen. Different difficulty settings determine whether you'll just play a brief outline, or pretty much every single note and chord that is actually used in the song (or close enough to make no difference)
Like I said, it sounds so simple, and simple is often mistaken for boring. But when you get down to it, Guitar Hero is one of those few games that are pure, concentrated, 99.9999999% Fun. Especially because the songs you'll be playing are almost all pretty damn good songs. The natural starting point is "I love rock'n roll", and from there on you'll do the classic opening of "Smoke on the Water", you'll definitely have more than a feeling of awesomoness playing Boston, you'll be reminded why Eric Clapton is so great as you struggle through "Crossroads", you'll want to strip down as you rock out to The Donna's "Take it off", you'll suddenly get the blues with "Texas Flood", and so on and so on, until the end of the line is reached with "Bark at the moon". Unless of course you've bought the bonus songs in the ingame store and want to take a sweep at them as well. Some of them are quite good, with especially "Even rats" becoming a favourite of mine.
And that's going to take a while, especially on Expert. Thankfully, the game is having just the right increase of difficulty for each setlist of five songs. And since the overall quality of the main setlist is so good - I only really disliked four out of thirty songs from a musical perspective - you'll have no problem at all wanting to play the songs on easy or medium first, then gradually move to Hard and Expert and play them again (and again and again and again...). And when you finally beat a song on Expert that's been giving you more than a fair share of difficulty, just give in to your inner rocker, and let out a primal scream of triumph. You've earned it.
Not only is GH a great game in itself, but this is one of those few games that are fun to play both alone -and- with friends. It's a rare game that manages both those tasks at once, and the gods know that good party-games are rare on the PS2. Not to mention great party games. And this is one of them. Though there is one thing to be said, and that is the lack of actual co-op play with separate difficulty settings. As it is, you have to be pretty evenly matched to get the most out of it. If not, then the party value is found in simply letting one person play at a time and the others laughing at each mistake made (unless you're the one owning the game. In that case, they'll be in total awe of your superior skills.)
All in all, this game is just something fresh and different, and for a European gamer like me, it's also quite original, as neither Konami's Guitar Freaks, nor Harmonix earlier attempts of rhythm games were ever officially released here. The only way you can avoid liking this game is that you don't enjoy a plethora of very varied songs which nevertheless all share the love of rock'n roll in its many forms.
In short, this game's got it all with its simple frame. Something appealing (almost everything), something appaling (once the adrenaline rush vanes, the pain still remains, and not many of the bonus songs are worth buying ), something for everyone... It's rock'n roll tonight!