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Rock Band Reloaded


Itís not shocking that Electronic Arts wants to spread their Rock Band license all over every gaming platform possible. But implementing the game on touch-based platforms has always seemed odd to me. Thereís obviously no instruments to play attached to the Apple device, hence the entertainment factors is vastly decreased right off the bat. Rock Band Reloaded is actually the second release for Apple platforms, the first being simply called Rock Band. However, this release brings a key element to the table, the ability to sing into the iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad microphone and control your pitch for the vocals. Granted, itís vastly less involving than singing with a group of friends on the regular Rock Band for consoles, but still a step forward.

Structured just like the console versions, you start up the band and start touring different events in the World Tour mode. There are six locations and 36 events to unlock completely with star ratings. The gameís layout is in landscape mode this time around and you occasionally are forced into doing a single instrument for an entire song to amp up the difficulty, especially on songs with crazy guitar solos. There are tapable buttons at the bottom of the screen that you hit as the notes run off the screen during the music. Thereís also a quick play mode if you want to get thrown into a song immediately as well as local multiplayer (more on that in a minute).

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Using the microphone for the gameís vocals works fairly well while you are inside a quiet room. However, you canít take it outside as the background noise will screw up the microphone. Then again, you donít want to look like a crazy person singing into your iPad. But itís also pretty easy to cheat with the vocals. I was off on the pitch most of the time, but got five stars on the hardest difficulty as I nailed the rhythm in the songs. The whammy effect has also been added into the game for the bass / guitar. This is accomplished by holding down the virtual buttons and moving your finger around. But I still donít like the star power system as shaking the iPad throws me off entirely in the song.

One aspect of the game thatís lacking compared to the original is in song selection. The game comes with just under 30 songs, 15 of which are ready to be played as you begin. You can unlock the other 14 by progressing in the game. While thatís about 10 more than the previous game, the selection is much worse. There are plenty of bands you will recognize like Nine Inch Nails, Megadeth, Billy Idol, Alice in Chains, etc, but the selection of music is weak. Iíd imagine they will attempt to sell more songs as extra purchases, probably the most sought after music. There are currently a few indie titles on the marketplace, but nothing really worth purchasing.

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Finally, local multiplayer has been included in the title allowing you to connect with other Apple devices via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to play as a band. Everyone can take an instrument and play the song simultaneously. I got a chance to play with two other people here in the office and it worked pretty well. Unfortunately, I donít see myself being able to take advantage of it very often. Iím also disappointed that they didnít include online multiplayer after a year of development. The only multiplayer component with the game is the ability to post high scores to your Facebook wall. But you need friends playing the game as well.

Graphics

The game really looks great on the Retina display on the iPhone 4 and fairly decent on the iPad. The high resolution notes are clearer to see, especially when you need to time the taps correctly. The background visuals also look improved over the original, with more crowd shots and various camera angles. The game runs very smoothly on all Apple platforms and the loading times are fairly quick as well.

Audio

The presentation is the typical Rock Band quality, playing at a rock show with ambient crowd noise. As I mentioned earlier, Iím not enthused with the song selection. The tenth time I had to play Pat Benatarís Heartbreaker made me want to toss the iPhone out the window. However, the sound quality of the music is fantastic, even better when you are wearing a solid set of earbuds.

Conclusion

I wasnít really challenged with Rock Band Reloaded, mostly because the difficulty level seems to have been hamstringed for the casual gaming audience. You can blow through all the gigs in no time, even on the hardest difficulty. Beyond the vocal improvements, thereís nothing really spectacular with the game or anything to revive the music franchise on portable devices. While the game is technically proficient, itís not going to knock your socks off. Itís the same Rock Band formula, but missing great features like online multiplayer or the awesome plastic instruments of the console games. Pick up Rock Band Reloaded if it goes on sale for $1.99 or they release an update with better song choices.



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