The Emperor's New Groove Box.
Lego Rock Band does not come bundled with peripherals; the makers assume the target audience already has a previous Rock Band title (or compatible Guitar Hero title), including a guitar or two, a microphone, and a drum set. Using a similar assumption, this review will not go into the basic mechanics of gameplay, for Lego Rock Band is like any Rock Band: play the notes or sing the words on time.
[image1]Where Lego Rock Band differs, however, and whether these differences seem worthwhile is the question. While it offers several new features, its most outstanding may be that it offers fewer features. But you get the same feeling playing Lego Rock Band that you get when you watch Die Hard on TBS. In its attempt to be accessible to a wider audience, it has been unnecessarily edited. Sometimes the edits make you chuckle, but sometimes they just make you long for the real thing.
So what does Lego Rock Band have going for it? Obviously, the cuteness factor has been turned up to eleven, and this is the most endearing aspect of the Lego entry to the Rock Band library. Characters are customizable in a way that is reminiscent of playing with the beloved building blocks. Choose a head, click on some hair, a body, and off you go. You'll even see Lego versions of a few rock icons thrown in for good measure. The band you form in the game gets around on blocky vehicles that any respectable seven year-old would covet, and they get bigger and more tricked out as the game progresses. And fret markers are little Lego tiles.
You earn studs – the one piece connector blocks that always seem to get lost in the dusty corners of the real world – as the currency in the game. You can use them to upgrade your vehicle and deck out your band's den. Cut-scenes can be summed up in two words: “a” and “dorable”. These charming scenes come at a cost, though; loading takes a while. Fortunately, the downtime is filled with interesting reading material. Did you know Lego makes 306 million tires a year to keep up with demand? Neither did I... Not until I waited and waited for my new venue to load.
[image2]In place of Career mode, Lego Rock Band offers Story mode, and you get a few challenges that are really fun. Use the Power of Rock to help demolish a building or scare away ghosts in a haunted venue. This challenge is even played to The Ghostbusters theme! Bonus! While random and inexplicable, the Rocktopus challenge is another treat you won't find elsewhere. (For some reason, the Lego Universe is very anti-octopus.)
To drive home universal accessibility, Lego Rock Band offers Lego Recovery Mode - making it virtually impossible to fail - as well as a new difficulty level: Super Easy. Recovery Mode alone would probably have sufficed. Super Easy mode ends up being really boring – you don't have to push buttons on the frets (just strum), you don't have to attempt to stay on pitch with the singing, and you don't need to hit any particular pad on the drums. It's useful when you want to watch the action in the background; otherwise, it seems like overkill when Recovery Mode will kick in eventually anyway.
Special attention has been paid to making the drums easier for those challenged with coordination (or say, for the wheelchair-handicapped), as an automatic Kick Pedal option is available. You can also choose to play a shorter version of the songs. Presumably this is for
kids players with short attention spans or for those who are too busy to play for a full three minutes. The songs end abruptly. It's jarring and unsatisfactory. You end up questioning the purpose of promoting attention deficit behaviors.
[image3]On to the songs, which is what any Rock Band should be all about. You get 45 – about half of what you get with Rock Band 2. The mix is eclectic. There's something there for everyone, but aside from a few gems (David Bowie's "Let's Dance", The Jackson 5's "I Want You Back", to name a few), the whole collection is on the bland side.
There has been some attempt to keep the songs at a PG-rating, but the censoring seems random. In Bon Jovi's “You Give Love a Bad Name”, the lyrics “you promise me heaven, then you put me through hell” are intact. So what the hell are they censoring, anyway? While you can export the song library for $9.99, you can't import songs from other Rock Band entries that may be too explicit for young ears. Likewise for online play... you simply can't go there. This is the less-features-for-more-money thing that is hard to get behind. You can bet the Emperor wasn't too happy with his clothes when he realized he was being scammed, either.
Presumably, prospective buyers already have a Rock Band game in their collection, at which point the purchase of Lego Rock Band becomes tricky to justify. If you just have to expand your song library by these 45 songs, or you really love the Lego-verse, then by all means, add this to the collection. If you have little ones in the house, you can most likely get by with what you have, provided there is real parental guidance. They could probably do with a more tactile diversion than video games can offer anyway. Lego Rock Band is a watered-down version of the original; dressed up, for sure, but with few places to go. Now will someone please get these monkey-fighting snakes off this Monday-to-Friday plane?