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Rock Band: Unplugged Review

Published July 11, 2009 by |

The rhythm game genre has been, since its inception, very popular with all audiences for each of the home consoles. They provide an exciting way to enjoy music and a party incentive with an array of instruments. The success of the games is largely due to the combination with music and enjoying playing in a band with your friends. With this in mind the thought of Rock Band: Unplugged for the PSP, a portable system, would seem unnecessary and as the title suggests there are no attachments to the device. This portable Rock Band appears as usual to any of the Rock Band games for the consoles. However, as is explained in a helpful training mode, there are notable differences to gameplay.

Among the adaptations is the the ability to move through the instruments of the band. Included are all of the familiar band pieces, including Singer, Drummer, Bassist and Guitarist, displayed as a flowing note board. The trigger buttons are used to shift from one instrument to another, and to ensure that notes are not missed due to absence, a ‘phrase’ system has been applied. Phrases allow for an instrument to be played while attention is placed on others, although for short periods of time, as long as a small section of the song is completed on the instrument. Failure of a song comes swiftly, however, if the phrase is missed and other instruments become active as you struggle to complete another phrase. This is a very effective way of including all of the instruments popular in the Rock Band franchise whilst adding a new challenge. Star power is also adapted to help those failing and boost high scores. As only one instrument can be played at a time the white coloured energy notes appear on all tracks, ensuring that the option is there. Solo sections of certain songs also appear where a single track is enlarged on the screen for concentration on a single track of notes. Button compilation is set as standard across the left and top directional pad buttons with triangle and circle. Struggle to adapt to the style of play is natural, fortunately the button mapping is fully customisable.

There are a selection of game modes such as Tour mode where you take a personally created band and march them through different cities, playing songs or setlists in each. The customisation of the band is good with name selection, band logo, member names, attitudes and their bodies. A selection of hometowns is also available to choose, this determines where you start on the ‘world map’ and move from city to city. The stage and band members make the background to each song, eventhough not much attention is placed on them whilst playing. The overall presentation of the game is excellent for the portable system, with clear and concise menus.

As you build up stars and fans you can unlock staff members to give bonuses when songs are completed and transport to gain access to new cities. Opportunities such as performing the next gig as a benefit show, gaining double the amount of fans but no money, appear from time to time and add variation to the tour mode. Without this deviation tour mode would seem monotonous, playing song after song, and including it adds to the longevity. Quickplay is available for those not interested in a career mode and want to play through the songs that appeal to them. The ability to unlock all songs from the options menu is a good feature for this purpose. If there is a particular song that is good to play with one instrument Warmup Mode is available to run through. Band Survival Mode adds a new challenge as phrases are not set and instruments remain unplayed if left alone, often requiring a more tactical approach especially on the trickier songs. Other modifications that can be made to the game include the ability never to fail in a song and to exclude the solo sections from songs.

The music store allows for purchase of a number of new tracks from the Playstation Store on the PSP. The amount of songs available is meagre but it is available when more is added. The 41 songs on the UMD is enough to keep an interest in the game, despite a little repetition in tour mode. The mixture of different styles of tracks also adds to the approachability, with a mix of soft and heavy music. Rock Band: Unplugged excellently combines a music rhythm game with in a portable device and should entertain fans of the console version and commuters looking for an engaging game.