We somehow coaxed Carolyn into attending Comic-Con this year, and she and I spent a couple of minutes wandering the hall before the floodgates opened and plunged the place into sheer chaos. We even managed to stumble across Konami’s “Rock Revolution” which a rep was boasting “was way better than Rock Band”.
We were in a hurry, but I had to stop and check it out. “Way better?” I asked. “Tell me more!”
“Uhh…” the marketing guy began, looking suddenly very uncomfortable… “Well you know how Rock Band is just guitar and drums, right…?”
“And vocals and bass guitar!” Carolyn chimed in.
“Well… I don’t know if this one has vocals, but… <mutter><inaudible><mutter>We have Really Great Songs!” he finally said.
“Awesome! Can we check it out?” said both Carolyn and I. And within minutes we were getting ready to flail away on “Somebody Told Me” by The Killers.
That is a great song, and I was intrigued by the six pad (plus bass pedal) drum kit. Carolyn took “beginner” on guitar while I tried “medium” on drums.
My unfair, 4-minute-long review of the game? It seems to miss the whole playing music thing for the sake of button pressing, in the same way that “Dance Dance Revolution” makes you move your feet, but doesn’t actually resemble any sort of dancing I’ve ever done. This may all be a long way of saying that I completely cratered on a drum piece which I could play on real drums in my sleep.
The thing I’ve really enjoyed on the drum part of Rock Band is that it breaks down the real drum part in a way which actually makes musical sense to a drummer. To wit: if you can only play one instrument at a time, make it the bass drum. Two: bass drum and snare. (Heck, if you can hold down those two in time, along with the a time-keeping element like a hi-hat or ride cymbal, punctuated by the odd cymbal crash, you’re not far off from being a functional drummer).
Rock band starts with the basics (bass/snare/cymbal) and ups the subtlety level of the rhythm as you go up in difficulty level. Rock Revolution, on the other hand, despite—or maybe because of—having more pads to play with, seems to treat drumming less as a musical exercise than as a button-pressing one. You don’t start with a (simplified) version of the real beat of the song, but instead just hit vaguely related parts of the rhythmic structure strung out between six different pads.
On “Somebody Told Me”, it’s incredibly awkward because of the bass drum part is almost completely omitted (the anchor for the entire song!) and you spend your time instead trying to figure out which combination of pads corresponds to part of the remaining snare/hi-hat rhythm (which is even more disorienting since there’s no hi-hat pedal, and that song relies heavily on the up-down action of the high-hat throughout to entire chorus).
I sucked on it. In exactly the way I suck at arcade drumming games–and don’t suck at Rock Band, or on real drums. Take it for whatever it’s worth.
For her part, Carolyn pronounced the “Easy” setting on guitar to be “way easier than Easy in Rock Band”. She ventured that it might be a good game for folks who had problems with Easy not being easy enough, but after that, we had to thank the rep and scoot to pick up Neil and Kelly from the free babysitting service provided to Comic-Con exhibitors during setup for the show. (Kids aren’t allowed on the show floor during that time, due to the constant back-and-forth of heavy machinery and forklifts).