Guitar Hero Review

The iPhone is turning out to be the handheld to have if you’re a music/rhythm game junkie. With Rock Band, Six-String, and the Tapulous series, you’d think there’d hardly be room for one more on the platform. But Guitar Hero doesn’t care what you think. It showed up out of nowhere– announced, no less, in the middle of WWDC 2010’s keynote speech– boasting six well-chosen songs and a very reasonable price. So how does it stack up against the competition?

Like a rock star, of course. It may be late to the party, but it’s still a heck of a lot of fun to play.

Once again, you hold your iDevice vertically and watch notes stream down the screen on what we like to call the rock ‘n roll superhighway. Your job is to tap or swipe the notes when they get to the sweet spot at the bottom of the screen. Do this in time to the music and you’ll sound like a rock god. Screw up, and your ears are in for a beating.

Rock ‘n roll forever.

As the title suggests, Guitar Hero limits you to playing guitar or bass. That’s not a big problem, since jamming out on the drums or vocals isn’t all that fun unless you’re playing with other people. And, disappointingly, there’s no multiplayer in Guitar Hero.

The actual gameplay is pretty standard for the genre, but it includes strumming in addition to tapping. Strums are indicated by arrows that come down the pipeline across multiple buttons, and when they’re mixed in with regular notes it takes quick reflexes to nail them all. This is a welcome addition because it adds a good deal of variety to the gameplay, although we should note that Six-String uses the same mechanic.

Your opinion on the song selection will vary depending on taste, but most people will probably be pleased. Classic rockers have Queen and Rolling Stones to rock out to, fans of modern fare have The White Stripes and Rise Against, and everyone else can enjoy Weezer and Vampire Weekend. But even if you don’t find something to like in the line-up, you can buy extra songs in packages of three for $1.99. (Click here for a full list of the music available now).

Bad to the bone.

Though the initial six songs can be blown through in under a half hour, you have plenty of incentive to replay the songs in your collection. In a kind of RPG leveling-up system, you can raise your score on guitar and bass separately, going from amateur to background guitarist, to lead. The game also comes with built-in achievements that unlock new guitars, accessories, and clothes for your avatar. The avatars are quite customizable, and it’s surprisingly fun to tinker with them.

Although it doesn’t do much we haven’t seen before, Guitar Hero is a very solid music/rhythm game. We wish it had multiplayer and a larger selection of songs, but the modes on offer should appeal to most people, and plans are in place for more songs to be made available soon. So if you haven’t grown tired of the genre, Guitar Hero rocks.

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