Turn it up to 11 and watch the house come tumbling down
When I was but a nipper, I never would’ve thought that Lego, a simple and affordable toy that could bring joy and shelters amongst the homeless would grow into a brand that would harbour massive theme-parks, be well known for its parodying classic films in video games and be the leading manufacturer in child suffocation aids.
It’s easy for dedicated fans of the series to become somewhat dismayed by Lego Rock Band, as it makes it pretty clear from the start that it’s a game for those happy go lucky families that usually manage to find their place on Songs Of Praise. It lulls you into such an overdose of security that after playing for ten minutes, you’ll think it safe to take the long way home from work through Brixton. The cartoon tiger that greets you in the opening menu, the in-game toy guitars, the fact you can win a walrus as a pet and more aspects combine to finally give the rhythm music genre the ‘Let’s not actually take any of this seriously’ attitude everyone should approach it with.
Once you’ve constructed yourself with a small array of Lego features, the tour begins, and actually attempts to follow some kind of story this time around. It may fascinate children, but it begun to lose me when it attempted to convince me that Freddie Mercury was still alive and well, just playing concerts off on an alien planet. Yes, the whole Lego concept is meant to make everything very tongue in cheek in the first place, but even kids may find it a bit odd to witness this and may grow into a whole new generation of ‘Elvis Lives’ weirdos with new conspiracies and explanations.
The story isn’t what we’re here for though. The main heart of the game lies in the set-list. 46 songs make it to into the line-up this time around, consisting of several jaunty, poppy, thumbs up to the kids-tastic tunes. The Song Export feature makes a return, allowing you to play the new brick based songs on Rock Band 2, and all downloaded songs which don’t feature references towards drugs, alcohol, sex, violence and/or free speech and be played on Lego Rock Band. Of course the soundtrack has its duds, but a music rhythm game with a perfect set-list would be burnt on the stake at this day and age.
Lego Rock Band really is diverse and fun for many an age, despite the cutesy fašade it evokes.
A quick glance at the list of songs for Lego Rock Band could very easily make or break the game. For some it may be too far into the regions of novelty and pop-punk, and even I was slightly dubious about what peers would think of me, wondering if I had truly reached a new low playing as a miniature plastic man with a plastic guitar accessory strapped to myself (making it embarrassingly immersive, but the constant touch of flesh broke it after each song). However, eerily soon after I put the disc into the Xbox, a drunken horde managed to find their way to my house and all managed to sing I Want You Back by The Jackson 5 so loudly that my Xbox genuinely half red ringed in deafened bewilderment. Despite the initial fear provoked by this violent hiccup, it enforced the point that Lego Rock Band really is diverse and fun for many an age, despite the cutesy fašade it evokes.
One thing about the set-list that everyone can agree with, however, is the lack of material there is to play. Yes, a lot of them are incredibly fun to play, yet the small amount of content means that the world tour suffers significantly. The Beatles: Rock Band just about got away with its minimal content by enforcing the fact that the whole game was an experience and celebration of the bands’ major work. When Lego Rock Band dangles a major world tour mode in front of you that can be easily likened to that of Rock Band 2’s, and then attempts to fill it out by forcing you to play ‘Mystery Setlists’ and ‘Build Your Own Setlists’ with minimal content, you can’t help but feel slightly cheapened.
Despite this, it finds ways to compensate its losses. The backbone of Lego Rock Band comes in the form of customisation. It’s easy to switch over your general appearance with a few swap overs of Lego, and it’s alarmingly easier to switch your entire gender. Plastic surgery has never been quite so simple (and literal), and players can still switch over clothing and instruments, but can also change the whole appearance of their band, entourage and staff members as quick as a flash. The central hub for proceedings is ‘The Rock Den’, a small utility room that’s dying to be cloaked in prizes and nic-nacs from around Legoland. The main attraction to playing more of the aforementioned ‘Random Song’ gigs is to win various oddities for your pad.
In order to back-up the games ‘Family’ status, some new elements have been added to the gameplay in order to make it easier for the young’uns. A ‘Super Easy’ difficulty has been added, possibly to patronise players of all ages rather than help them. Seeing as having beer bottles thrown at you and your own drummer vomiting in your face in utter disgust at the sound of your singing isn’t exactly politically correct, it’s now practically impossible to fail a performance. Instead you’ll be forced to take a short break, losing some cash and points in the process. When you’re tagged back in, you enter recovery mode. Perfecting your performance in this short space of time allows you to earn back some of your lost credibility and studs, meaning that game over is never a possibility. Although it strips the challenge from songs, those who leap into Expert difficulty and come to regret their foolhardy actions later at least get a saving grace in proceedings.
There’s still elements of humour traipsing around in crevices of the game, but of course, with barely much source material to parody, the funnies are somewhat hard to find. The combination of Lego and Rock Band was always perceived to be a bit bizarre, yet came out better than could be expected. However, after extensive play through, it becomes easier to see that the Harmonix and Traveller’s Tales partnership isn’t as strong as it could have been. The previous Rock Band games has an uncanny ability to create the experience of a live performance in a single song with video footage. Now of course we have armies of musical plastic mini-men blurring the lines of realism here somewhat, but with video shots of the floor and skyscraper windows sometimes taking primary focus of the performance, and graphics so blurry that it looks like pixels are attempting to escape from the TV, the experience becomes somewhat lacklustre in places. It feels like Harmonix generated the audio sections of the game, and then let Traveller’s Tales do their own thing with everything else, making certain sections feel quite tame. ‘Rock Power Challenges’ usually break the sub-par levels of videography, forcing you to halt a T-Rex or defeat a giant octopus with the
power of rock, but it leaves you wondering why this level of detailed imagination couldn’t have been put into more of the gigs on offer.
With its light content and lack of polish, Lego Rock Band feels like it could have been not better, but as good as previous instalments. It could very easily amuse and entertain its target audience and is still a blast to play with friends, but fans of the series will easily pick apart the aspects which simply make it a ‘Good Game’, rather than a ‘Great Game’. Still, it’s worth a punt for those hungry for more musical material on their hard-drives, just expect a shallower experience for your money.
Sorry for the rather serious end paragraph for such a vibrant game, but perhaps I’ve just hit the realisation that none of these instrument accessories will grant me a place in music history.
The Bad: Somewhat light on content, Visuals lack the same polish previous instalments had