I'll admit that when Harmonix first announced Rock Band Blitz I was very very skeptical. I'm a huge fan of Rock Band and I play bass in the greatest fake band in the world 1.21 Gigawatts. My friends and I probably have at least one Rock Band session a week and head to a local bar once a month to show off our chops in public. So when I heard that Rock Band Blitz was to be played alone and with a controller, my initial reaction was “that's two strikes Harmonix.” They were dropping everything that made Rock Band great. Playing with an instrument and with friends. How on earth was Blitz supposed to be successful if you took everything people loved about the game out? Well not everything, there was still the music. I took my skepticism and decided to give Blitz a try and was absolutely astounded at how much fun I was having, all alone with my controller.
The gameplay found in Blitz is very similar to that of Rock Band but also quite different. You still play songs but instead of dedicating yourself to one instrument you must play all of a song’s parts to reach those top scores. The controls are simple, the d-pad controls the left notes while the A button controls the right and the L and R triggers are used to switch between the different musical tracks. You need to trigger each note using the buttons in time with the music just like in Rock Band. Each time you hit notes successfully the track you are playing will begin to level up its multiplier; 2x 3x 4x and so on. Once a track has reached the level cap it will stay at that maximum multiplier until you reach a checkpoint which will then increase your level cap by one, two or three levels depending on how high the levels were before the checkpoint. This encourages you to level up each track quickly so that you can earn more points with the increased multiplier. The strategy comes from choosing which parts of the song to play to get the highest possible score you're going to want to play the part with the most notes but it's important not to neglect the other tracks or your level cap will never increase. It's nuanced and tonnes of fun to try and figure out which parts of the song will yield the highest score. Another mechanic which is necessary to hit the top of the leaderboards is the power-up. As you play through the game accumulating Blitz Cred and Blitz Coins you'll unlock various power-ups. These are quite varied and add a whole new dimension to the gameplay. You can choose 3 power-ups (one of each type) to use during any song. For example if the song you're going to play has a really intense guitar part you're going to want to choose the “Super Guitar” power-up which gets you more points for each guitar note hit. Other power-ups have you chasing down specific notes, will blast a group of notes out-of-the-way with an explosion, or send a pinball bouncing around the tracks. It's really up to the player to choose which power-ups suit their play style. There's also some synergy meaning that some power-ups work better together than others. For being a simple game that's really about playing music, the power-ups, leveling mechanics, and track switching all make for rich and fun experience that's easy to learn but will take some time to master.
Who Needs Friends?
Apparently I do. Despite the amount of fun I was having I did find myself longing for human companionship. Well, maybe it wasn't companionship more like bragging rights. When playing Rock Band with your friends you can rip on a band mate for not playing on expert or brag when you nail more notes than your friends, but without your friends being present how can I feel superior to them? Blitz has the answer, welcome to Rock Band World featuring Score Wars. Rock Band World is actually Rock Band Blitz and Rock Band 3's companion Facebook application which brings a social element to the game. Through Rock Band World you can participate in goals that earn you more Blitz coins which can then be spent on power-ups. You can also view leaderboard or challenge your friends to a Score War. A Score War is where you challenge your friends to beat your high score on a particular song. They then have about 72 hours to accomplish this or suffer the humiliation of defeat. You can also challenge random players to a score war from within Rock Band Blitz but if you want to challenge someone specifically you need to go through Rock Band World. Overall the app is well put together but it's slightly problematic that you need to go through Facebook to use those features. I'm not sure why Harmonix didn't allow players to challenge their friends who are already their Xbox Live friends list but I might be something they add in the future. While there is nothing wrong with Rock Band World it's just an odd little step that I think a lot people will simply forgo instead of experiencing everything the game has to offer.
Rock Band Blitz is more fun than it should be. I can't explain it but, I just get this weird feeling while playing and I keep thinking that this shouldn't be fun, but it is. It's easy to push that weird feeling aside and focus on trying to best my friends at my favorite songs, and that's really what Rock Band is all about. Playing music with friends, and of course there's nothing wrong with a little competition. Rock Band is about style and Blitz is about the high score. They're two different experiences that share common ancestry. It's like Blitz is Rock Band's drifter cousin who doesn't show up often but when he does a good time is had by all. I must also credit Harmonix for seamlessly integrating this game into the Rock Band platform. Any track you download from the Rock Band Store or Rock Band Network is playable in Blitz and all 25 new songs are also instantly added to your Rock Band 3 library. In short this is a spin-off of a successful series that is done so incredibly right it's scary. I could have done without Rock Band World and would have loved more than 25 new songs, but it's still a really good package for 1200 MSPoints, and is a great experience for anyone who is a fan of music games.