Monday, January 26, 2009

Rock Band

Our friend Christine had a birthday party Saturday night, so we went. There were 9 people total, and we spent a significant part of the evening playing Rock Band 2 on (I'm guessing) their PS3. (It might have been the Wii. They have everything.) And it was...awesome. I've never played Rock Band before and I just had a fabulous time.

The way the game works is that you and up to three of your friends play fake plastic instruments or sing into a microphone. (You can do one each of guitar, bass, vocals, and drums.) There is a huge list of real songs, such that almost anyone would know many of them. When you choose a song to play, each person gets to choose a difficulty level for their own effort, and then the song starts. Each instrument gets a track that shows what notes to play when - shown in a style similar to how Dance Dance Revolution or a similar game shows it. The vocalist gets lyrics and a line representing the pitch, and when you sing it shows a little arrow showing where your pitch is, so you can adjust if desired.

For the instruments, how many keys are involved and how complicated and fast the passages are is determined by what difficulty level you choose (easy, medium, hard, expert). For the vocals, all that changes is how strictly you are graded.

I got to sing a fair amount, and found that singing songs that I've sung many many times in the car went very well. I think I got 99% on Expert on Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up In Blue" and a similarly high score on songs by Blondie and Fleetwood Mac.

In a funny moment late in the evening, I chose to sing "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden (since I know it and have enjoyed dancing to it a couple of times over the decades), and was then shocked to find out how nonsensical the lyrics are. (You don't get to see all of the lyrics at one time - you pretty much just sing whatever comes up on the screen - so it can be a bit of a surprise. Snakes? What?)

So, the singing part is like karaoke, I guess, which I've never tried. I also played guitar a couple of times, and bass (same plastic instrument) a whole bunch of times. Once I got decent at handling the necessary keys for the medium level of difficulty, I started to get into the rhythms and really understand what I was playing on a broader level. (I guess I mean I was playing phrases and not just individual notes.)

One nice thing you might not expect is that the music for the songs is the real music from the real recordings, so it's not like a cheesy elevator-music version or anything. And, while you can hear yourself play well or make mistakes, you can still hear the whole song even if all of your bandmates suck. I'm not sure how they integrate that, but mostly it does just work.

Anyway, I thought it was just about the funnest thing ever, and I may have to buy it. Fortunately I already own a PS2, and there is a PS2 version, so I would not have to buy an entire game console in order to play this one game. Buying the game, guitars, microphone, drums, etc., is bad enough.


Susan said...

I got to see some people do this at a library function and it really looked like fun. I don't think I would do very well at it, though.

Tam said...

The nice thing is that on Easy Mode it really is pretty easy. At our party, we played it on "no fail" mode so that no matter how bad you were, the game wouldn't make your band stop playing. Because, really, who wants to be the screw-up that ended the song? :-)