Rock Band Unplugged

Unplugged is a fresh and creative take on the Rock Band formula

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MTV Games Rock Band Unplugged
  • MTV Games Rock Band Unplugged
  • MTV Games Rock Band Unplugged
  • MTV Games Rock Band Unplugged

Pros

  • Incredibly addictive gameplay, beautiful visuals, fantastic setlist

Cons

  • Lack of multiplayer really dampens the experience, slight learning curve

Bottom Line

As a rhythm game, Unplugged is a wonderful portable title. Its addictive gameplay, stunning visuals, and fantastic setlist make it a must-own for PSP gamers. Even with its multiplayer shortcomings, an accessible Rock Band music store and a myriad of hard-rocking features and modes are more than enough to make up for any of Unplugged's shortcomings. I can't help but recommend it — it's a much needed musical experience for the PSP.

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They did it. They actually did it. I don't know exactly how they managed it, but the superstars at Harmonix were able to capture the rhythm-based, lighting-in-a-bottle phenomenon that is Rock Band and package it into an innovative portable package that is a must-own title for touring virtual rock stars everywhere.

One Man Band

I was a complete sceptic when I first read the announcement for Rock Band Unplugged. Images of four PSP-toting gamers huddled into a circle, trading notes via laggy wi-fi came to mind; I mean, how else can you make the ultimate musical ensemble simulation work on a portable device? Guitar Hero: On Tour worked extremely well as a solo effort, but that was largely achieved thanks to the DS' touch screen and microphone novelties; oh, and it also had that sweet peripheral as well. But the idea of balancing four instruments on a singular handheld device sounded simply overwhelming. Thankfully, Rock Band Unplugged captures the energy and musical appeal of its predecessors while also offering up something completely different.

In the same manner as earlier Harmonix titles such as Frequency and Amplitude, Unplugged gives players the option of toggling between four separate tracks: bass, drums, vocals and guitar, respectively. Rather than focusing all of your energy into one instrument, Unplugged puts more of a focus on micro-managing the entire performance. Each set of notes is locked into a bracket known as a phrase, and once that phrase is completed successfully, the selected instrument will play on its own for a bit, giving players the opportunity to toggle to other tracks via the shoulder buttons on the fly. While this may sound hectic at first (and believe me, it can be) players will soon find themselves conducting entire songs on their own, achieving a fantastical unified band melody that's as rewarding to hear as it is to play.

Overdrive!

Rock Band Unplugged features four main modes that span an astonishing 41 tracks. Tour mode is all but identical to the one found in Rock Band 2, allowing players to jump from city to city, collecting stars as they hire new staff members and make their name known across the globe. There's also a Quickplay mode for speedy jam sessions, a Warm Up feature where gamers can focus on just one instrument at a time and a Band Survival Mode where every safety net is removed, and you're challenged with the task of managing all four tracks as long as you can.

While Unplugged is a fresh and creative take on the Rock Band formula, there's no denying that this new direction is going to alienate some franchise veterans. While I found the rhythm-puzzle aspect downright addicting, I can also see how fans of the series might be a bit let down. The lack of a multiplayer was especially disappointing. While the single player mode is more than enough to keep your thumbs busy, one of the pioneering aspects of the Rock Band franchise has always been the ability to play with your friends. Not being able to jam with other "musicians" was a huge let down.

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