Games for Lunch: LEGO Rock Band
Developers: Harmonix, Traveller's Tales
Publishers: MTV Games, EA, Warner Bros.
Release Date: Nov. 3, 2009
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, Wii, Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Web site
0:00 I jumped on to play half a song on guitar when I saw this game unattended at E3. That was how long it took me to lose interest, given all the other, newer, more original games on the show floor. I'm still not sure what the LEGO license really adds here. We'll see...
0:01 I accidentally skip the opening video by doing some impromptu warm-up on the drum pads. I'll watch it later, I guess. I spend roughly 30 seconds creating a dizzying array of save files and caches for the game. Each time the game asks me where I want to save them. Uh ... there's only one hard drive there, fellas...
0:02 "Would you like to play the drums with an automatic kick drum?" A nice option to have, and one I would have very much welcomed when first learning Rock Band. Of course, now I'm a drumming god, so I don't need it.
0:03 A nice, large LEGO tiger sits astride the main menu. I choose the Story mode, because that's where I expect the game's LEGO-ness will come through strongest. In the background, Vampire Weekend's "A-Punk." What an awesome song!
0:04 Building my band, now, I let the game suggest some random names for my drummer. They are in order: Kerry, Mia, Kerry, Jerry, Caleb. Wow, those names are awful drummer names. I go in to enter "Barnaby the Destroyer" by hand, but it's too long. "The Destroyer" will have to do.
0:06 I can customize the body, hair, shirt and pants with a bunch of LEGO minifig optios. They all have weird names like "Mothership Q" or "Nocturnum" or "Quentin Lance" or "Bob." Well, I guess that last one isn't that weird. I give Bob some big, "Glam Roadie" hair and some hideous brown pants before moving on.
0:08 The first random band name the game suggests is "The Leaking Elephants." I love it! I'm kind of sad that I'm the only real member of this band, but who am I gonna find to play with at lunchtime on a Monday, No one, that's who.
0:09 In the intro cut scene, my drummer is watching a LEGO version of Queen on television. Inspired, he gets up and sets up an audition for bandmates at some hole-in-the-wall club. A motley bunch of LEGO stereotypes stand outside, waiting patiently for their turn. First up, guitarists, most of whom plunk badly at their guitars before I hit a big red buzzer and send them packing. One guy with a Union Jack shirt sounds pretty good, but his arm literally FLIES OFF as he plays, so that's no good. The next guy can really shred, and gets a checkmark on my clipboard.
0:10 A bunch of bad singers follow, including one who burps mid-song and another who's choked by a snake as he sings. The winning singer has a cute, Simlish-style nonsense voice: "Bong bicka bong b'dang b'dang," he sings. A bass player with cool white hair tears it up. A tuba player gets sent down a trap door. Then, finally, a LEGO octopus burns up the drums, eight-arm style. The camera pans and zooms on a "No Octopi" sign at club. I shrug as the octopus throws me the drum sticks. Cut to our foursome on stage. I count us in and we all rock out! If there's any reason to buy this over another Rock Band game, these cut scenes would be it.
0:11 "The Rock Den, where it all begins..." It's empty now, but I'll be able to customize it with stuff I earn later, apparently. What is this, The Sims? "Suddenly I See" by K.T. Tunstall plays in the background. Another great song. Call me a weenie if you want, but it just makes me feel good!
0:13 I jump into the shop briefly but I'm unimpressed with what I can buy with my 10,000 gold LEGO circles. The loading screen tells me the 150 million Bionicle figures outnumber the populations of Germany and France combined. That scares me, for some reason.
0:14 "The residents of Brickton Manor are so rich, they pay people to pay people," says the loading screen. So ... they have a payroll department? That means they're as rich as ... a midsized corporation? That's not that impressive. Anyway, our band starts out in a camper van that we "may end up pushing as often as you drive it, but rockers need exercise too." Indeed.
0:15 The only available venue is LEGO City Station, with three songs. I don't know "Grace" by Supergrass or T. Rex's "Ride a White Swan," but I'm excited to try Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'." The Super Easy mode is an interesting addition, but I go with Hard, since I have no idea how difficult the note patterns will be.
0:20 Well, that was certainly a Rock Band song. A pretty boring one, at that... no real variation in the simple, on-beat patterns at any point. I don't feel being "LEGO" really added much. Sure, the notes are LEGO bricks but ... so what? It's also a little off-putting seeing my minifig characters move their mouths to sing along with the song. The lip syncing isn't even very good ... much better in the original Rock Band, even. Oh well, I get 10 Achievement points for completing my first gig and getting five stars by hitting 98 percent of my notes, including a 311-note streak.
0:21 "Visit the tutorial to learn the basics of singing." Really? I always thought you either knew how to sing or you didn't. How exactly is a tutorial going to give you better pitch?
0:25 I crank it up to "Expert" difficulty for the drum part to T. Rex's "Ride With a White Swan." Even so, I make it through with a flawless 462 note performance. This sounds more impressive than it actually is ... there isn't a single bass-drum note in the entire song, and 99 percent of it just alternated between a red/blue double drum hit and a yellow drum hit, both perfectly on beat. It's a fine song, I guess, but playing the drums alone just is not interesting enough for me. Yet I pretty much have to play it if I want to get through Story mode. On the plus side, I got 80 Achievement points from three Achievements. I unlocked a train driver and a potted tree, too.
0:26 A mandatory bonus gig! It's "Inspiration" by Queen, a song I do not know. The game suggests that maybe I'll sell out big stadiums like Queen did, someday. So encouraging!
0:30 Oh, it's not "Inspiration." That was just the gig title. It's actually "We Will Rock You!" There is absolutely nothing to the drum part ... three notes repeating in a simple tap-ta-tap-rest rhythm for a couple of minutes. I could have closed my eyes after 10 seconds and still gotten the 99 percent I ended up with. I guess it was fun watching LEGO Freddie Mercury, but man are these drum parts simple. Also, where is "We are the Champions"? "We Will Rock You" should ALWAYS be followed by "We Are the Champions." ALWAYS!
0:31 Thankfully, there's a Make Your Own (single song) Setlist gig unlocked now. Unfortunately, only 10 of the LEGO Rock Band songs are available to choose for it. I can choose any of my Rock Band/Rock Band 2 songs, but why bother? Let's back out to free play, how about that?
0:32 The loading screen tells me a new LEGO set is sold every seven seconds and that there are 62 LEGO bricks for every person on Earth. Funny, I don't remember the other LEGO games having this much blatant product promotion.
0:33 There we go, right at the top of the list: Vampire Weekend's "A-Punk." The game tells me it's a difficult part on drums: five stars. I guess that means I should stick to "Hard," huh?
0:36 Now that's a strong drum part! A strong, fast beat and lots of variety! I know the song pretty well so I don't break a sweat hitting 94 percent of the notes and just barely missing five stars. At one point I thought the red drum pad wasn't working, but no, I was just slightly off beat. It's a bit faster than I'm comfortable with, but I catch up.
0:37 Going down the list alphabetically, Sting's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" is the next song I recognize. All these recent songs that I've never heard of are making me feel O-L-D old. It's another tough one, but I decide to challenge myself by playing on Expert.
0:38 The loading screen tells me that the Inflatable Pig holds the record for longest trip in space by an inflatable pig. Is that ... is that supposed to mean something to me? It also tells me that Sting got his nickname because he wore a black-and-yellow outfit that looked like a bumblebee. OK, that's awesome.
0:43 Wow, what a brutal song! I manage to basically keep the beat on some of the simpler verses, but the bass-drum-filled choruses throw me for a loop. So many notes ... I hit JUST enough notes to stay alive and get to the next simple verse. This works for about 80 percent of the song, until my meter finally depletes fully. Instead of ending the song, though, a little coin meter appears briefly and drains. When the song comes back, there are little coins above the first set of notes. I hit about half, get a "good recovery" message and continue. That's a nice feature ... acknowledging failure without making it super-frustrating!
0:45 I break out the guitar to give my drumming arms a break. I'm tempted to play the Ghostbusters theme, but it's a little too cheesy for my mood right now, which is saying something. Instead I go with "In Too Deep," a personal fave from Sum 41. The guitar part gets the highest-possible difficulty rating, but I go Expert anyway because I am BAD-ASS!
0:50 I build up a lot of Star Power during the first few verses, which are relatively simple compared to the absolutely INSANE 15-second solo. I somehow stumble through 42 percent of the notes in said solo, which the game charitably calls a "good" performance. I only survive because I used my Star Power, and what's more I know it. The final 89-percent completion and 114-note streak is enough for four stars, but I'm not proud of it. I actually admire the actual Sum 41 guitarist a lot more now.
0:51 What the hell is this band Everlife doing covering "Real Wild Child." Who the hell are they?
0:52 I don't care if Blur's "Song 2" has an incredibly easy guitar part ... the song is so incredible I'm gonna play it anyway! So there!
0:54 Man, that song is just nonstop awesome. Yeah, it's mostly a single note on guitar, but that lets me focus on the LEGO-fied members of Blur in the background, playing in a subway station for some reason. The "no busking" sign is a cute addition. They're such outlaws! I also like how an unseen crowd sings along with the "whoohoos" and "yeahs yeahs." A nice touch, that!
0:55 Scrolling through the remainder of the song lists to pick my final tune for the hour. There's some good stuff here: "Final Countdown," "Two Princes," "Summer of '69," "You Give Love a Bad Name" and oh, there's "We Are the Champions." I end up choosing "Suddenly I See" because it has a tough guitar part and I'm in the mood for something peppy.
1:00 I'm loving the big purple hair on the K.T Tunstall minifig. I do pretty well on the tough rhythms through the verses, but get slipped up on simple slides in the bridge. This makes me self-conscious about the post-bridge verses and I mess up some of the same rhythms I was hitting easily earlier. Am I losing my endurance after just an hour of Rock Band? That is just sad...
Would I pay this game for more than an hour? No.
Why? The LEGO stuff is kind of cute, but I'd rather play these songs in Rock Band 2. And, thankfully, I can!
This column is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
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