Rock Band Blitz: I Like To Score

YOU MAY NOT HAVE REALIZED it was coming, but Harmonix released a new Rock Band game last week. Called Blitz, it’s an arcade game that ditches the plastic guitars and drums in favor of a standard controller and (hooray!) works with your existing DLC library. The gameplay isn’t revolutionary by any stretch, but as a $15 XBLA/PSN downloadable title that includes 25 new songs (“Jessie’s Girl”!), it’s a pretty sweet deal.

The gameplay mostly resembles Rock Band Unplugged for the PSP: there are four tracks representing drums, bass, guitar and vocals (a fifth for keyboards in some cases), each with only two lanes of notes, left and right. You can slide to any instrument whenever you want, but that’s where the strategy begins: more notes = more points, but maintaining a balance across all instruments builds a bonus multiplier you can cash in on later on, so each song becomes a mini-puzzle where you try to figure out an optimal scoring path.

Adding to the strategy, you get three powerups at the start of each song which rack up even up more points. Some are straightforward, like double points for drums or guitar, while others let you trade energy for various bonuses. Some are just wacky, like a giant pinball that crushes notes as long as you can keep it in play. Again, different songs lend themselves to different powerups, so you could spend hours mastering any one song, let alone the hundreds people have stockpiled in their libraries over the years.

These powerups are purchased with “coins” – an in-game currency you acquire simply by playing songs (not via spacebucks…yet). To me, it’s a terrible mechanic: restarting a song forfeits any coins you’ve spent, and having to ration coins makes me less inclined to play a song 20 times in search of a high score. Then again, maybe that’s the idea: you get bonus coins for playing new songs, so hey, why don’t you buy some new DLC? (as the game continually suggests).

You also get bonus coins via “Rock Band World,” a Facebook app where you can connect with friends for special challenges and OH GOD MAKE IT STOP. I’ve been ignoring the Facebook aspect, so it’s not intruding on my game, but this is not a trend I want to see continue. Will the next Half-Life make me friend the Black Mesa facility to unlock a mission? Will I get a special gun in Halo 4 if I friend Master Chief? Just stop.

That aside, the basic gameplay in Blitz is fun enough. It’s a simple way to get new life out of your existing Rock Band library, and the 25 songs included with Blitz (it’s an OK-but-not-awesome soundtrack) also work with Rock Band 3. You can challenge friends to duels, replay your favorite songs over and over in pursuit of high scores, and I have to admit, as someone whose friends list is dotted with many of the world’s best Guitar Hero / Rock Band players, seeing many of them pop online again has offered some nice pangs of nostalgia. Thumbs up.

 Sluggo’s Score: B