I’ve established a tradition on this blog of reviewing games that came out several months ago, thus cementing the absolute irrelevance of my commentary to the majority of the intertubes for whom content goes out of date in about a day. It’s kind of the opposite of a magazine that’s delivered by ninjas every 3 hours to ensure cutting-edge coverage. Thing is, unless a game is truly awful I like to try to finish it (or at least finish with it, which is not always the same thing) before deciding my opinion of it, and these things take time.
So, I got Lego Rock Band for Christmas and we just finished the main story mode last night. This is a game that’s averaged 70 on Metacritic, and has basically been described as the lazy, ugly child of the Rock Band series. What a load of old bollocks.
I can only take from the critical reception that most reviewers are so incredibly jaded, and their hearts shrivelled to the size of a small pea, that they have no concept of pure fun any more. Either that or they have their heads wedged so firmly up their own backsides that it impaired their ability to play. Because in fact, Lego Rock Band is a really fun game. Ok, it has some limitations such as no online play (we play locally 95% of the time anyway so no biggie) , and it’s basically a carbon-copy of Rock Band with different songs, a Lego theme, and a couple of minor additions, but so what? TT Games have perfected the art of making very amusing games with the Lego brand, and this is no different. If you find none of the cutscenes, Rock Challenges and little Lego costumes and settings amusing, then something inside you has died since childhood and you’re officially a grumpy old fart. I must admit that when LRB was announced I did a double-take and wondered WTF they were thinking, but having played it I take it all back; this game justifies its existence just by being funny, fun to play and hugely endearing.
And let’s talk about the setlist. It’s shamelessly popularist, filled with tracks that almost everyone recognises and that many music snobs will hate. I was a little reticent about the list at first, barring a few classics like Song 2 - but when we actually played it, it turned out that a whole bunch of these tracks were outrageously fun to play. It’s not arty, it’s not revolutionary, but my goodness it’s fun. Plus, you can export all of them to your Rock Band repository, which is great and means the content is given an extended life after the game itself is finished.
Speaking of which, I got The Beatles : Rock Band at the same time, and LRB has had about 10 times as much play time as that, simply by popular opinion. TB:RB has the authenticity, the brand power and the credibility, but when push comes to shove, it’s just not as much fun to play. It’s certainly not a bad game, and clearly features some good music (and some duds too - sorry Beatles fans), but it’s hamstringed by being entirely uncompromising, forcing you to play everything in the story ladder in a rigid tiered order with zero personal choice, and refuses to allow you to play anything other than Beatles music for the entire time you’re playing it (despite the hundreds of other tracks sitting on my hard drive). I’m sure die-hard fans love it, but for everyone else it’s a blinkered game that seems quite willing to sacrifice broader enjoyment in favour of encouraging you to appreciate how goddamn awesome the Beatles were, to the exclusion of all others.
It certainly encourages players to buy into the myth that The Beatles single-handedly defined music in that era and everyone else was riding in their wake. For people who don’t worship them, it’s something of a straight-jacket of a game that’s enjoyable only in relatively short bursts. Personally, a Capcom-inspired “The Beatles vs The Rolling Stones” would have made a much more interesting game (which could have been followed up with Oasis vs Blur, Michael Jackson vs Jarvis Cocker, and who knows what else) 😉 And hey, just let me export the songs to my catalogue, where they would enter the normal rotation, because they’re not going to get played very much otherwise, which seems highly counter-productive. Again, I think egos are getting in the way of enjoyment here - I’m a customer, and I like The Beatles (well, some of their stuff anyway), but I like lots of other music too. I want to be able to add this content to my wider collection - why won’t you let me? No doubt because the corporate behemoth that oversees The Beatles brand doesn’t want me to, which doesn’t exactly endear me to their cause.
I buy games for entertainment, and from my perspective LRB has been short-changed in the reviews on that front. You won’t receive as much kudos for it as TB:RB from your elitist game reviewer friends, but what do they know? 😉