There’s nothing deceptive about Rock Band on the iPhone. When you plunk down ten bucks for the game, you get exactly what you’d expect: as close an experience as possible to playing the console game Rock Band on the iPhone.
The look, sound, and feel of the original game are almost totally intact. The graphics are done in the same tattoo-inspired style, and the menus contain the same options: Quick Play, World Tour, Multiplayer, etc. You’ll even hear the same instrument sound effects when you make your selections.
Of course, the game has been slimmed down to fit the platform. You won’t create an avatar, jam on plastic instruments, or play as many songs as you would on the console. But on the smaller screen there’s hardly room for the musician animations, so not having a custom avatar isn’t a big deal. Peripherals are no good for mobile gaming, so that’s acceptable. And the limited number of songs keeps the price and the hard drive-hogging to a minimum, so really there’s not a whole lot to complain about, unless you don’t like the songs. (For a full list, check out our preview).
This fretboard is the highway of rock.
As in the console versions, you can choose to play drums, bass, guitar, or vocals. When playing an instrument, the notes stream down a magical fretboard highway, and you have to tap buttons at the bottom of the screen in time to the music to nail the notes. The vocals are a little different from console versions, in that you tap the notes rather than sing. And rather than sliding down the fretboard, the vocal notes stream right-to-left. Whichever you choose to play, you always have four touch buttons, and your part is boosted in the mix so you can hear your performance clearly. Flicking the device initiates overdrive.
You can choose from three appropriately-different difficulty levels. There’s no expert mode here, and you’ll never have to touch more than two buttons at a time. This may turn off the hardest of hardcore, but you only have two thumbs, and most players will find the Hard Mode plenty tough.
Fifteen songs are playable in Quick Play mode from the get-go, leaving five to be unlocked by playing through the World Tour mode. There’s also an in-game music store where you can buy new songs in preset pairs for $0.99. Only five pairs of songs were available at the time of this review and, like the 20 songs included, they’re standard Rock Band fare.
In-app purchases let you spend even more money!
Probably the biggest selling point for the console versions of the game is the multiplayer mode. Jamming out by yourself is alright, but playing with friends (especially when drinking) can be a serious thrill. The options for going multiplayer in this version are Bluetooth and online.
Online mode is done through Facebook, so you’ll have to have an account and enter your login info. One online option is to play with a friend. You pick a song and an instrument, play through it, and your score is delivered to the friend, who can play the song with a different instrument, and your scores are combined. You can also play cooperatively with random people. This is the same as playing with a friend, but random people play all the other parts, and you receive your points once each part has been played.
Multiplayer is now possible without big plastic instruments.
Local multiplayer through Bluetooth happens in real time and works perfectly. One person creates a game, up to three others join in, and you can play through as many songs as you want. All in all, it’s not that different from the console version. You’ll want to use headphones in this mode, however, as the sounds coming out of your devices will be slightly out of sync.
One issue worth mentioning is the load times between just about every screen, including menus. This isn’t a huge deal, as they generally don’t last long, but know that you will be twiddling your thumbs every few seconds between songs.
Rock Band is the best music/rhythm game on the App Store. It comes at a premium price, but it’s a fraction of the cost of the console version, and with the quality of the songs, gameplay, and extras, it’s entirely justified.