I’m on a highway to video game hell.
In an ever expanding world of rhythm games, the poor little Wii has drawn the short straw. It’s just now getting Rock Band, and its version of Guitar Hero III had a bad case of mono. So it’s not surprising that they would try to up the ante and get into the game. Enter THQ’s Battle of the Bands.
Out of the bevy of musical games I’ve played, this one has the most unique concept. In a post-apocalyptic world, bands battle to rule over what little of society is left using rocket-launching drums, flamethrower guitars, and smoke-bomb keyboards. You play as one of several groups vying for control of the whole shebang. Be it a hip-hop gangsta, undead mariachi, or a whiny little goth, each band has its own special genre flavoring.
You fire your arsenal by completing a set number of notes in a row. Trying to shoot down that country band with some buckshot; well, that's gonna take an eight-note streak. The more powerful the attack, the more points you’ll earn. The system is clever and the game would be nothing but a really good mash-up without a stereo to play it on without it. Sadly, the occasionally unresponsive controls makes it very difficult to actually land a combo of more than, say, nine.
The best and brightest part of this game is definitely the music. Not only is there a decent amount of songs, including hits by The Gorillaz and Electric Six, but each song has been recorded in each group's different musical style. I must tell you that the country version of “Mama Said Knock You Out” is a triumph of auditory meshings. Heck, most of the songs, when taken out of their original context are whimsical at the very least.
The banter between bands before they battle is humorous enough. I was actually taken back by it a bit. I wasn’t ready for witty dialogue. Sadly, it fails to paint a story of what’s going on. Some parts drive the story incoherently, while others seem like nothing more than an excuse to throw a cream pie in someone’s face.
The inclusion of a music player, though, is a great touch. It even allows you to hop between styles as they play. If you wanted to DJ a kickin’ dance party, this is all you would need.
Truly, the music is the best part of the game. Kudos to all the bands that had to come up with and record these genre-bending covers. It’s no easy task to take someone else’s work and turn it out in a different musical style and in a clever way. And while music is a key element of any rhythm game, the other aspects must be up to par for it to stay the course. Unfortunately, none of the other features of the game come anywhere close to matching the greatness of Battle of the Bands' sound catalog.
Simply put, the controls are busted. This should not come as shock to anyone who has played anything on a Wii. As you must have learned by now, Wii-motes are not made for surgical, precise movements. In a game where you must trace over squiggly lines and hit left, right, and down arrows with impeccable timing, the controller can really hang you out to dry. Losing matches because you missed a left arrow while the Wii-mote was trying to figure out what you were doing flat-out pisses you off. On top of that, you get into spots where it's not your inherent white-nerd-from-the-suburbs rhythm that's making you lose, but the unreponsive controls that are doing so.
The problems with the controls are made even worse when you consider that your entire offense is based off your ability to make combos. There's nothing like looking at your stats and seeing you did better overall than your opponent, but lost because you couldn’t get a rocket fired off.
Graphically, there’s not much to talk about. The game looks like it came out for the N64 and is being run on an emulator. Everything is blocky and bland with very little shading. Even Mario 64 looks way better than this does. I know the Wii isn’t most graphically powerful system , but I expect better than this from a system that is two generations removed from the N64.
The concept of Battle of the Bands has a tour bus full of potential in its humorous approach as opposed to the flashy glamour and glitz of its rockstar cousins. But just like about every other game I’ve played for the Wii, it falls short in presentation and execution. Consider how much fun could be had with this concept of bands going back and forth. Maybe instead of trying to make it work with the Wii-mote, they should’ve gone with the guitar and drums. Maybe they could’ve touched up the corners on their animations, so they didn’t look so blocky.
Unfortunately, good grades aren’t handed out for what you could’ve accomplished. When the dust has cleared, and there’s one game that reigns supreme in the rock’n’roll rhythm genre, it’s not going to be this one. But maybe it can at least take home an honorable mention for trying to think outside the box.