Posted by: smirkdirk | September 10, 2009

Some Quickie Thoughts On “The Beatles Rock Band”

4 out of 5 cookies – totally liked a whole lot. No real issues.

Tired though I was, by the time I’d finished up work, and running some car-trading errands with Mrs. Smirk (Our ’98 Tahoe back-up vehicle bit the big one last week and was going to cost $1000+ to fix, but the guy who originally sold it to us wanted it back and is going to fix it for his own personal use, and traded us straight up for a ’00 Kia Sportage – coolio!), I stopped by Gamestop at around 8PM last night and picked up this game.

First off, I don’t write much about music games even though I play the hell out of them – mainly because they don’t feel like games to me, but more of listening to music whilst interacting with it, so its hard to review them outside of the context of the music that they’re made up of. That being said, I think I own every single music game ever made. I own Amplitude on the PS2 (the first!) and even Rock Revolution – a lame rip-off of Guitar Hero and Rock Band hoping to get those not in know to confuse it with the aforementioned masters and make a quick buck. (To be fair, Rock Revolution is now $8.99 used at the game stores and for that price, if you’re a fan of music games or any of the songs on the soundtrack, its worth it.) Anyway, basically every music game made so far, I own or have owned. Yeah, I know, Geek. I’m just trying to establish my credibility here.

Anyway,

The Beatles Rock Band is – different.

Last night I played it nearly all the way through, (I believe I have two levels left) and it was unlike the other music games in that it was much less about the game and much more about the music.

To be fair, I was playing the drums, and all signals point to the real strengths of this game being in the vocal part which I haven’t even tried yet – but I will as Chancho Cox has expressed muchos interest in lending his cords to the task. The vocal part also allows up to three people to sing in harmony, which means I’m also thinking about inviting this guy to sing with Chancho:

Okay, back to the business at hand: Compared to the other games made in the last two years, The Beatles Rock Band drum part is incredibly easy, which is pretty much what I expected. It is obvious that it is also what the designers expected as they have catered and designed the game around its inherent and relative simplicity.

The first three levels are basically, performance levels, very similar to what already exists in the real Rock Band games except its The Beatles; The Beatles at their early club, The Beatles at Shea stadium. It is on the fourth level, after The Beatles no longer tour and are in the studio that the strength of the game really opens up.

The first song I played in this later level was “Yellow Submarine” and the band sat in the studio as the song started and about 30 seconds in, I realized that myself and the band had all dropped some really good acid that George had gotten his hands on. A yellow submarine appeared in the background, and John, and Paul, and Ringo were, like, in the windows of the sub, and those little animated dudes from the movie were there, and you were there too!

Each song from this point on has its own wildly animated sequence, some of which were so friggin’ cool that I was paying much more attention to the backgrounds than I was to the actual drum line. Once you get to the true trip-tastic tunes like “I Am The Walrus”, even “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” you can imagine the directions this thing takes.

Being quite familiar with The Beatles I totally enjoyed the experience and after a night of recovery am ready to take the trip further this evening and finish this thing up. I am ready to expand my mind, to make John Lennon stop scaring me by staring at me from the background all resentful-like while Paul is singing – it really is uncanny at times. I am ready to tune in and turn on the Xbox360. Until Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey get video games of their own, this will have to do for now.

As far as my kids who are not very familiar with The Beatles, the jury is still out as to whether this will be something they are interested in – as, like I said, this game is much more about the music than it is about the game – I have a hunch that at least an elementary knowledge of the band’s repertoire will be required to get full enjoyment out of it.

So far there have only been two other games based entirely on one band, Guitar Hero Aerosmith and Guitar Hero Metallica. So how does The Beatles Rock Band stack up? Well, Metallica is built on the opposite philosophy of The Beatles as it is first and foremost about the gaming experience. It is incredibly difficult and thus a major challenge and a lot of fun for those who love music games and can do just about everything on the “expert” level.

If anything, The Beatles game is more akin to Aerosmith. It traces the band through time, bringing all of the various multi-media elements into play. One big difference here though, is that whereas Aerosmith is constantly on the stage throughout their game, The Beatles removes the stage altogether after the third level and goes into hallucinogenic mode. The Aerosmith game could have benefited from this creativity.

The Aerosmith game also had some quite notable omissions from its playlist, whilst The Beatles game really does feel complete as is – and with “All You Need Is Love” already available for download, and the rest of Abbey Road on its way, one has a distinct feeling that most of the band’s catalog will be available for gameplay sooner or later. Let’s just hope this downloadable content has the original and creative background designs that the on-disc content has that, in my view, are where the great strengths of this game reside.

Lastly, both the Aerosmith and Metallica games follow the graphical designs of Guitar Hero, meaning you get the band members in full 3D, polygonal glory which looks sort of neat for a little while, but has a much more cartoony vibe than Rock Band’s attempt at realistic movie-like graphics. In other words, there are times when The Beatles actually look pretty real, whereas there is never a time in the other two games when the bands look like anything other than a videogame representations of reality.

The new millennium has been very good to The Beatles and their legacy. The success of the Cirque De Soleil Love show, the genuine spirit of The Beatles captured in “Across the Universe” truly live up to the heritage of the band. This is in direct opposition to the early attempts at canonization such as “Beatlemania” or the horrendous Sgt. Pepper movie.

This game is a fine edition to the newly established Beatles estate, and will probably serve for a few years as an actual introduction to The Beatles for a lot of the new generation.

Here is the preview for the Sgt Pepper movie just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about:

And here is the song Sgt Pepper as re-imagined by The Beatles Rock Band:

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