Developer: Planet Moon Studio
Release Date: April 22, 2008
Previously titled Band Mashups, Battle of the Bands can best be described as a musical tug-of-war. It uses the rhythm formula that we've all come to know and love, thanks to games such as DanceDance Revolution and Guitar Hero, but controls are handled by the Wiimote, so it doesn't require additional input peripherals.
Battle of the Bands will offer a single-player adventure mode, tutorial mode and versus mode, but we only saw the versus mode at THQ's Gamer Day event in San Francisco. After we each selected a band, our attacks, difficulty level, and agreed on a battle song and stage, the game was on. The title is set up similar to Guitar Hero or Rock Band; the screen is split in two and the band is located toward the back, although the string of notes moves up the screen toward the band, rather than down the screen, as we've come to expect.
Players must move their Wiimotes in the appropriate manner as the notes cross the play line: point it down for a note in the middle, flick it to the left for note on the left side of the field, and flick it to the right for a note on the right side. You'll also need to waggle the Wiimote to the left and right when a small zigzag appears, and wave it widely for bigger zigzag. Accuracy matters a bit here, so if you widely waggle the Wiimote for a small zigzag, it will count as a missed note. Notes with crosshairs on them require you to quickly thrust the Wiimote toward the screen in a stabbing motion.
The music bar between the bands indicates which player is the latest to accurately string together a combination of notes, and if you gain the upper hand, your song style will be played instead of your opponent's. The side to which the arrow is pointing is the one whose song style is dominant at the moment, but it's not indicative of a higher score, so it doesn't necessarily mean that the person is winning. It's a good way to listen to a song change as the tug-of-war between the two players' musical styles ensues. While the song is being played in your genre, you'll earn more points per attack, which is certainly advantageous because the winner is the person with the highest score at the end of the battle.
As previously mentioned, you can select three attacks that you can bring into the match: light, heavy and special. There are approximately 70 different attacks in the game, 15 of which are of the special variety, or, as the developer described, "screw-your-opponent weapons." Attacks are presented on a three-by-three grid, and you choose among a variety of grids to get the most appropriate combination. The number next to the weapon indicates how many notes you'll have to string together before you'll be able to use the attack, and the number of stars underneath the weapon indicates how fast of an attack it will be — the slower the attack, the more of a chance your opponent will have of blocking it.
You can pick one attack per row (one light, one heavy and one special), and in the beginning, light attacks only require two or three consecutive notes, but by the end of the game, you'll have access to weapons that require as many as 20-30 notes to launch! Some of the attacks that we saw in action include: flip, which switches the controls so that left is right and up is down; fire; grenades; guns, which range from a single-shot pistol to a multi-shot machine gun; and smoke screen, which lands a smoke grenade on your opponent's play field and obscures his notes.
During the battle, you use the A button to cycle through your attacks, or you can use the up and down buttons on the d-pad to quickly choose an attack. As long as you hit the note with the attack attached to it, it will automatically activate and launch itself at your opponent. The developers wanted to make sure that your focus at this time is on hitting the notes, rather than fumbling for the correct button. If you dare to hazard a look away from the stream of notes, the constantly changing number next to each of your attacks indicates how many more notes you must hit before it can be used.
In every song, you'll have a face-off, which means that you and your opponent play a solo segment, and for each note that is successfully hit, you'll launch an attack (in the shape of an alien head) on your opponent. You can block each attack by pressing the B button, which is located underneath the Wiimote, at the appropriate time. When you're the one on the offensive, the segment will play the song in your musical style, and based on what we saw during the hands-on demo, there are two consecutive rounds of attacking and defending. It gives everyone a chance to hear the song in their musical style, regardless of how well they're doing in the actual competition.
There are 30 songs in Battle of the Bands, and each has been recorded in five different genres, which comes to a grand total of 150 songs. At three to four minutes per song, that means the single-player mode will yield anywhere from seven to 10 hours of gameplay. The genres are country, hip-hop, Latin, marching band and rock, and the song selection includes "Blitzkrieg Bop" by The Ramones, "Mama Said Knock You Out" by LL Cool J, "Man of Constant Sorrow" by The Soggy Bottom Boys, and "Photograph" by Def Leppard. The songs are covered by 11 different bands: two country, three hip-hop, two Latin, one marching band, and three rock.
Although we didn't get to see it, there was a brief discussion of the single-player mode. You'll be traveling across a map to play gigs, and each location has a different style. At each location, you'll be battling against two or three different bands. The single-player mode slowly eases the player into the game with its song selection, so that even rhythm game newbies can get up to speed fairly quickly. There are 12 different environments, and in the final level, you'll be battling against Mr. Hahn's Violent Orchestra — comprised of a drum, tuba and violin — so you'll get your first taste of the classical genre as you duke it out over three songs.
With Rock Band for the Wii coming out later this year, Battle of the Bands may be a good title to tide over rhythm gaming fanatics until then. It's cheaper than either Guitar Hero or Rock Band, since it relies on the Wiimote and doesn't require additional peripherals. It's simple enough that it can serve as a good "gateway game" for those who have been too intimidated by the prices or commitment required by the other titles, but it can be challenging enough to give seasoned rhythm veterans a run for their money. Break out your drum major batons and prepare your Wiimotes — Battle of the Bands ships later this month.
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