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Review #179

Battle of the Bands
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Planet Moon Studios
Genre: Rhythm/Music
Release Date: 4/22/2008

When I first heard of Battle of the Bands, I knew I had to try it. It sounded so completely insane. A bunch of bands fighting to the death using covers of some truly horrible songs to duke it out?

Battle of the Bands seemed to be in the same vein as Rayman Raving Rabbids and I-Ninja where the game is as much a comedy affair as they are fun to play. I did have a few worries about the game though.

A) THQ was publishing it (I still haven’t forgiven them for Wrestlemania XXI)
B) Planet Moon Studios, makers of Giants: Citizen Kabuto and Infected had never done any music rhythm type game before
C) How they were going to make a music based band game work without the instrument style controllers.

The latter was the biggest worry, as Guitar Hero and Rock Band all have specialized instrument controllers as well as a song list that is 3-4 times what Battle of the Bands promised. Still the Rock Band parody in Raving Rabbids 2 was exceptionally funs and worked very well despite only using the Wii and Numchuk controller setup.

In the end, my morbid curiosity to see “Mama Said Knock You Out” performed by a marching band or yee haw country band won out over my reservations for paying $49.99 for a title that had a high potentially for being awful.

So how was it?

Let’s Review

1. Story/Modes

You would think there wouldn’t be a lot of story involving a music game. That much like Guitar Hero, career mode would just be music, music, and more music. Not even close. From the dozen bands you can choose from (each with their own musical style), each has their own specific dialogue and story about why they are participating in the duel to the death.

Even more surprising is that the script is hilarious. I think I laughed at every cut scene involving the Goth/Insane Asylum band. I want a Mr. Ponikins now. I also really liked the Undead Mariachi crew. I was also impressed that there are costume/appearance changes throughout the game, and that there is a story reason behind the transmogrifications.

Although the story blow away the plots of games like Guitar Freaks, which admittedly isn’t hard, there isn’t much to speak of for modes. You have Adventure Mode, which is you vs. the computer and Vs. Mode which is you vs. either a friend or the computer again for a single song. It would have been neat to have a co-op mode or the ability to play an entire song in a single genre instead of the flip-flopping. Maybe if there is a sequel, Planet Moon could keep that in mind. The game does allow you to listen to each of the tracks on their own, and you can switch from one genre to another while they are playing, but it’s not quite as fun as PLAYING a song straight through.

A very good story mode that never failed to make me laugh, backed up with an acceptiable, if not impressive set of options.

Story/Modes Rating: 7/10

2. Graphics

I love the character designs in the game. Each band has three members, each with their own unique look and personality. The graphics are cartoony and well done, and even though each battle ends with the grisly demise of either you or your opponent, it’s done very much in a “Looney Tunes” sort of way, so that when your opponent comes back from the dead in the next level you don’t have to ask why.

The actual gameplay graphics are well done too. The game has a similar layout to Guitar Hero/Rock Band/Guitar Freaks, but instead of using colors on the screen to remind you which button to press, Battle of the Bands uses either directional arrows, or symbols to show how to use the Wii remote. It’s all very well done and considering the speed that the game plays at on “hard” I was impressed that there wasn’t any slowdown; especially with how some of the attacks freak out your control board.

Battle of the Bands looks great with some wacky character designs. At least one band will find its way into your heart.

Graphics Rating: 7/10

3. Sound

I loved the songs in this game. Actually I should rephrase that. I love what they have done to the songs in this game. Aside from a few select songs, I’d NEVER listen to any of these on my ipod or hear them at a club. Still, the covers in all their different styles are done amazingly well and are quite hilarious. Here is the full track listing:

Adios Mexico made famous by Texas Tornados
Black Betty made famous by Ram Jam
Blitzkrieg Bob made famous by The Ramones
Brick House made famous by The Commodores
Una Mas Cerveza made famous by Texas Tornados
Dum Diddly made famous by Black Eyed Peas
Dixie Rock made famous by Wet Willie
Master Exploder made famous by Tenacious D
Feel Good Inc. made famous by Gorillaz
Fist Full of Dollars made famous by B Real
Give it To Me Baby made famous by Rick James
Keep Your Hands to Yourself made famous by The Georgia Satellites
Insane in the Brain made famous by Cypress Hill
Jungie Boogie made famous by Kool & The Gang
That’s The Way (I Like it) made famous by KC & The Sunshine Factory
Mama Said Knock You Out made famous by LL Cool J
Miss Murder made famous by AFI
One Thing Leads to Another made famous by The Fixx
Original Fire made famous by Audioslave
Photograph made famous by Def Leppard
Hey Baby Que Paso made famous by Texas Tornados
Shake It made famous by Latin Soul Syndicate
Man of Constant Sorrow made famous by The Soggy Bottom Boys
Spoonman made famous by Soundgarden
Tierra del Sur made famous by Ziroq
Coming Undone made famous by Korn
Danger! High Voltage made famous by Electric Six
Whoomp! (There it is) made famous by Tag Team
Wolf Like Me made famous by TV on the Radio
Is It Any Wonder made famous by Keane

You can hear these songs in any of the five styles: Rock, Country, Marching Band, Latin, or Hip Hop/Funk. People, words cannot describe the sheer comedy weirdness of a metal version of “Whoomp! (There it is). The same holds for a country version of “Jungle Boogie” or a marching band rendition of “Insane in the Brain.” Whoever came up with this track list needs to be rewarded for their sheer brilliance, and then escorted to a psychiatric clinic for their sheer madness.

Even if you don’t like a lot of these bands, or you haven’t even heard of some of them, the music in this game is amazing. Kudos to Planet Moon for having the fortitude to go through with this, as it paid off big time.

Sound Rating: 10/10

4. Control and Gameplay

The controls of Battle of the Bands are exceptionally well done for a third party game on the Wii. Not once did I have an issue with lag or detection issues.

You have six different actions you can do with the wiimote: swing it left, swing it right, swing it down, thrust it forward, shake it lightly and shake it forcefully. The game does an excellent job differentiating between all the different controls. I was worried at first about the thrusting because some games like Dragon Quest Swords are notoriously bad at recognizing this motion, but Battle of the Bands Spot on!

Gameplay intensity varies depending on your difficulty setting, but like any rhythm game, some songs are more intense then others.

You also have to factor in that in Battle of the Bands you are constantly attacking each other. Think of it as Guitar Hero 3’s boss mode DONE RIGHT. You have a wide variety of attacks, and you can select one for each level of intensity. Each attack requires a certain number of notes in a row to be hit, and then it will launch automatically. Attacks will low note totals gain you little points, but you can use them frequently. Attacks with higher note totals are generally faster and get you more points. You can block the attacks by pressing B at the right moment. This brings a shield up. Do this, and the attackers nets zero points. Remember though, you’ll be timing blows WHILE you’re hitting notes. You sometimes need to keep on eye on your own playing field and on your opponent’s attack setting on their side of the board.

Finally there is face off mode. This happens twice a song where every note is an attack. Each time you will take two turns trying to hit the right notes which launch little green skull bombs at your opponent. Again, they try to block yours and you try to block theirs. In face off mode though, only one person is trying to hit notes at a time, so it’s less frantic.

When you put all of these steps together, you have all the gameplay. Now the key is to keep control of the song. If the control meter is in your favour, you’ll hear the song in your style of music. You’ll also earn more points for attacks. The opponent slowly gains control by hitting you with attacks. Once your control meter is depleted, the genre of music shifts to their style and now it’s your turn to try and take control once again.

Some gamers might have trouble adjusting to a full vs. mentality, especially when you’re busy laughing at the weird covers of songs, but after a few games you’ll have the hang of it. I was very impressed with how solid the controls were and wish more third party Wii games could be this good.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 10/10

5. Replayability

The characters and songs are a lot of fun. The question is how LONG can someone hear the different songs before they go from funny to played out. Thankfully with 30 songs and five variations of each, the possible combinations are enough that the songs stay amusing, if only because you only really hear them once per play through.

There are no real unlockables or any bonuses to mention, so the game is pretty much a one play through wonder in Adventure mode and then Battle of the Bands is left to collect dust on your mantle until a friend comes over. If there were some hidden songs or some other modes to the game, it would score a lot higher here. As it is the game is a fun one shot, but it’s horribly overpriced for what you get.

Replayability: 5/10

6. Balance

The game is well balanced. There is a noticeable difference between all three difficulty settings. The higher you go, there will be more notes and the computer attacks and blocks better. Still, it’s very easy to keep control of the game and thus a higher score by doing one simple thing. Make sure you have a move that only requires two notes. Whenever the computer is in control, shift to that attack and just use it over and over. Even if the computer blocks most of them, you’ll be launching so many that you’ll get control back in no time. It’s a bit of a cheap trick, but I learned this about halfway through the game, and it never failed me.

Playing against a human is a lot more fun, as you’re both cracking wise at the songs, and the characters antics. You can adjust the song to be at different difficulties to make it more even. So if your friend has never played, you can set him on easy and yourself on hard to make it a closer match.

It’s well done, but it’s never THAT much of a challenge once you figure out some cheese tricks. I’ve still never lost a match on the game, vs another human or against the computer.

Balance Rating: 6/10

7. Originality

Although the game is obviously an attempt to cash in on the Guitar Hero craze that started a few years back, Battle of the Bands really manages to stand out from the back. First, it’s using just the wiimote instead of a special controller. It’s the only Bemani type game for the Wii right now that uses the wiimote really well, and that includes DDR Hottest Party Adventure mode is your typical, playing through levels of songs again and again until you beat the game, but the characters and scripting is pretty off the wall and quite out there for not only a rhythm game, but a E game.

It’s not going to win any awards for innovation, but the game plays well, makes excellent use of the wiimote, and the characters will hopefully be back with a sequel that offers online play or other modes.

Originality Rating: 6/10

8> Addictiveness

The game is a lot of fun in quick bursts, but it’s hard to do more than half a dozen songs before the wrist starts to hurt. It’s not Umbrella Chronicles bad, but the game does warn you to take a break every so often. I actually appreciated the reminder because I got really into the game, getting to 3/4th of the game beat in my first two sitdowns. What was supposed to be a match or two for early impressions became the first 3 stages of the game beat. My wrist ached afterwards, but it was worth it.

I know this is a game I’ll be keeping in my collection just for the absurdity of it all. It makes for a good player vs. player mini game to a few minutes with friends before (or after) you go out. Again, the game is a lot of fun for a once through, but to do it again and again? Well, the story with the different bands will continue to be amusing, but the songs might start to grate on you.

Addictiveness Rating: 6/10

9. Appeal Factor

In the short term. Pretty much everyone will have fun with this. A quick 3-4 minute game where you have a country western version of Miss Murder or a Marching Band cover of a Rick James song? It’s going to make most people laugh, even if they are laughing at how insane the concept it. It may just be that Battle of the Bands is one of those rare games where the audience will be having more fun then the gamer themselves as they can watch everything that is happening while the player concentrates on the beats and attacking.

The game might not be everyone’s favorite, but if you can be amused or have fun with this in the short term, you’re a sad, sad person.

Appeal Factor: 8/10

10. Miscellaneous

Fifty dollars for a very bare bones game rubs me the wrong way. The game is fun, but as much as I enjoyed it, I have a hard time justifying a $50 price tag for such a short game. If there were other modes or any unlockables or online play, this game would be killer and definitely in line for some year end award nominations.

As it is though, the game doesn’t have enough to it to justify the full blown price tag. It is a lot of fun, and hopefully after reading this review you can tell I really liked this game, but fifty dollars for such a short experience that really offers no rewards or changes in gameplay? I can’t do it. As good as the game is, wait for it to drop in price and then swoop it up. If you have a lot of friends that like really weird games, or you yourself are looking for a quality Wii game that doesn’t feature Mario or Rabbids, then this might be worth a purchase for you then.

Miscellaneous Rating: 3/10

The Scores
Story: 7
Graphics: 7
Sound: 10
Control and Gameplay: 10
Replayability: 6
Balance: 6
Originality: 6
Addictiveness: 6
Appeal Factor: 8
Miscellaneous: 3
Total Score: 69
FINAL SCORE: 7.0 (GOOD GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
Planet Moon has made a high quality and very entertaining rhythm game. It’s bare bones though and it’s hard to justify the price tag. Still, if you’re look for a solid game that will make you laugh, you might as well pick this up as there doesn’t appear to be a Rabbids 3 game coming out any time soon.

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