iPhone/iPad Review: Rock Band Reloaded

The original Rock Band for the iPhone was a decent hit in spite of trading real-feel instruments for tapping on a screen. This is because it was designed to look and feel like the console game and had a good selection of songs to go along with a well designed and functional interface. Now Electronic Arts is back with the next entry in the series … Rock Band Reloaded! Let’s see how they did, and whether it is worth paying again for the new game.

The Hype:
Instantly launch into 15 legendary tracks, with additional FREE songs available in the Music Store. Spanning 6 rock music genres, your instant FREE PLAYLIST includes:

The Reality:

The first thing you’ll notice in the iTunes App Store is that there are separate version for the iPhone and iPad. Both versions come with more 25 songs included as well as many more to purchase. You also get the ability to do a vocal track similar to the ‘real’ versions of the game. This contrasts with the original iOS game where you would do ‘tap vocals’.

The iPad version takes things further, offering two-player head-to-head action and also a much larger drum interface as well as universally improved graphics and a more ‘open’ feel as the game takes better advantage of the screen real estate.

The two most important things in a music game are the sound and the responsiveness of the interface. Those two things are handled extremely well. You feel that you are listening to full MP3 versions of every song, which is even more important when playing through headphones than on a console playing through a home theater. And the touch controls are perfect – I actually found that my timing was better reflected on both iOS versions than on the console version – but that could be a natural instrumentalist tendency to lead or lag the beat at times, which goes away when tapping on a touch screen.

The guitar and bass tracks are tapped out on ‘picks’, whereas drums are tapped on round drum-heads. The areas are large and forgiving – the emphasis is clearly on reading your taps rather than confining you to a small space. The vocal system reads your microphone input and scores you similar to the console microphone, and while it is a nice addition I found it to be the weakest part of the game.

There is online and local multiplayer, so you and some friends can work on a song together – but if you suspect it isn’t as fun as playing the console version together you would be correct! The game also constantly pushes its Facebook integration, asking you to tout every little thing that happens in the game. I think it is good to have the integration there, but this felt a bit over-the-top.

Specific to the iPad is the head-to-head mode, a fun competitive way to see who can hit the notes more precisely. The problem there is that with two people on one iPad you have to work in a way that allows both to play …which ends up with part of the screen covered and dampens the fun. Still a cool idea.

Since I have also been enjoying playing around with the Korg iMS-20 synth app, I found myself thinking that it would have been cool to see some type of virtual keyboard integration in the game, similar to how they added keyboards to the most recent Rock Band game (#3 I think?).

Rock Band Reloaded is a well executed music game with loads of fun gameplay but also loads of limitations. When it comes right down to it you need to remember: this is a cut-down version of a music game sold for a cut-down price. For me, I liked the iPad version better because it gave me more space, but found the iPhone version a much better value. Paying twice as much for a few added features and no more music seems unreasonable to me, besides which the iPhone app scales very nicely to the iPad screen. If you love music games and want to play on the go, this is an easy recommendation. If you haven’t fallen in love with Guitar Hero or Rock Band yet … don’t even bother!

Review: Rock Band Reloaded

Where to Buy: iTunes App Store (iPhone), iTunes App Store (iPad)

Price: $4.99 iPhone, $9.99 iPad

What I Like: Great sounds; Responsive interface; Solid online multiplayer

What Needs Improvement: Anemic songlist; Expensive to add songs; New vocal mode isn’t all that great.

Source: iPhone version supplied by publisher, iPad version personal copy. Originally reviewed for VGBlogger

Categories: Gaming, Reviews


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