Band Stars marks a series of firsts: It’s Six Foot Kid’s first game, and it’s also Halfbrick’s first foray into publishing. Thankfully, this team-up has produced a fun game. Bands Stars is easy to learn and master, but it’s also just as easy to walk away from.
I was a little apprehensive about getting into Band Stars, because it’s a freemium game based around energy meters. I was worried that, like many energy-based games, the amount of fun you’ll have depends on the energy recharge rate. However, Band Stars quickly alleviated those worries. Instead of having one energy bar that is used for all actions, each of the band members has their own meters. This subtle (but important) distinction makes Band Stars much more enjoyable and playable than other energy-based games.
At its core, Band Stars is about managing a band of musicians as they try to climb the charts and make some money. The game starts off by focusing on just this core idea, and that’s a great thing. You’re eased into the game by first choosing your core band members. From there, Band Stars introduces you to crafting songs, and then finer details such as assigning solos and buying new gear. After that, the sky’s the limit.
In the beginning, you pick four band members, each with a collection of stats related to music, such as rhythm and creativity. When you create a song, you can choose the style and the subject, and some combinations work better than others. The band members’ stats then determine how good the song is. You can also choose to use extra energy to boost the quality of the song with solos. After the song is released, the combination of style, theme, and band stats will make the song rise or fall in the charts.
Once your song has run its course on the charts, the band collects their royalties. This money can be spent on a variety of things, like training. Training a band member raises their stats, and higher stats make for better songs. Then you’ll earn more money, and can buy more equipment and training. Your band starts on the local charts, but as soon as you hit number one you move onto the national charts then on to the international charts.
Like in other Halfbrick games, you’re presented with three challenges that reward you with stars. These stars contribute to leveling up the band. But while challenges added to the enjoyment and playtime of other Halfbrick games, like Jetpack Joyride, in Band Stars it becomes an exercise in frustration. In Band Stars, challenges are poorly worded with vague or misleading titles.
For example, one extra challenge is to pump 20 “inspirado” into a single solo. The issue is that it’s not entirely clear what that means. To start a solo at all, you have to pay 30 inspirado, but that doesn’t count towards the challenge. During the solo, you can play a minigame to keep your levels in a particular range, and during that period you’re pumping inspirado into the solo. But you have no way of pumping more or less into the song than time allows. Band Stars doesn’t provide feedback to let you know this is even the thing you need to be doing. I had to look online to see if I was even on the right track towards completion.
Once you have mastered the core of Band Stars, there isn’t much of a reason to come back for more. Players may find that idea of trying to top the leaderboards a compelling reason to keep playing, and I’m sure there are players who will want to try and complete all of the challenges. Personally, this resulted in is a game that was just as easy to put down as it was to pick up. I can’t help but feel that Band Stars needs more of a reason to keep coming back than just making a new song or raising stats.
That one issue aside, Band Stars is a fun game. It’s free to download and the microtransactions are in no way required to get 100% enjoyment. It’s worth picking up, but be warned, your mileage may vary.