Release Date: August 28 (PSN), August 29 (Xbox Live)
Platforms available on: Xbox Live, PSN
The popularity of plastic instruments has died down considerably in recent years, but Harmonix has admirably continued to release songs on a weekly basis for the Rock Band platform. Downloadable single-player title Rock Band Blitz, however, veers in a fresh direction, completely doing away with all of the bulky peripherals. In fact, it more closely resembles Harmonix classics Frequency and Amplitude for the PlayStation 2.
Rock Band Blitz should appear somewhat familiar to fans of the franchise. Each track is split into multiple parts (guitar, bass, drums, vocals and keys - if applicable) which are represented by gems scrolling towards you on highways.
Missing notes isn't penalised (but streaks are rewarded). Each instrument has its own multiplier, which builds up as more gems are hit, but to maximise scores, it's key to divide attention across all parts. At the beginning of a song, the multiplier only goes up to x4 but regular checkpoints will increase the maximum possible multiplier as long as all parts are levelled. Scores are exponentially boosted as a result - it's not uncommon to reach multipliers of at least x15 or x20 by the end.
Completing songs earns coins, and coins can be spent on single-use power-ups which help towards increasing your score further. A maximum of three can be equipped, and these range from doubling multipliers while in overdrive to unleashing a pinball which racks up more points the longer it is kept in play. The neat thing is that no one combination will work across all songs, and experimentation is required to achieve those elusive gold stars.
Admittedly, there is a lot going on in Rock Band Blitz, but if anything, the multitasking and strategy ensure that there is rarely a dull moment. At its best, it's an absolute joy to play - everything comes together extremely well, evoking that 'just one more song' feeling.
Included in the game are 25 tunes, and the list encompasses a good mix of genres and decades. Maroon 5's 'Moves Like Jagger' and fun.'s 'We Are Young' - along with Kelly Clarkson and Foster the People - are modern crowd-pleasers, while Elton John's infectious 'I'm Still Standing' and Tears for Fears' 'Shout' are notable highlights. Then there are contributions from Blink-182, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, Queen, Soundgarden, Rick Springfield, Iron Maiden and more.
Even better, though, is that all of the songs can be exported for free to be played on Rock Band 3. If Rock Band Blitz doesn't appeal to you, getting 25 songs for 1,200 Microsoft Points is still a bargain and an attractive proposition.
The game will also last longer for those who have friends to compete with. Aside from friends and global leaderboards, Score Wars challenge friends to achieve the highest score in a particular song within a set time limit, while hooking your account to your Facebook profile adds new goals, which in turn reward you with more coins to spend.
The idea surrounding the Facebook application - 'Rock Band World' - could have been executed better. Goals can only be accessed via the social networking website, meaning you have to be on your computer to manage or check your active goals. Furthermore, the restricted distribution of coins in-game feels like it may have been done to encourage Facebook integration and goal participation.
Ultimately, Rock Band Blitz is a smart and satisfying extension to the Rock Band platform. It should be a no-brainer purchase for Rock Band enthusiasts, but it's also a worthy purchase for anyone who wants an addictive and at times chaotic rhythm title without the fuss of plastic instruments.