Daily Archives: November 23, 2009

As My Guitar Gently Clicks

My wife asked, “Can we get something better than that crappy Wii Music?”

We’re still down on Wii Music around our house.

But this time, my wife was planning out how to keep 20+ people entertained at either end of Thanksgiving dinner this coming Thursday.  She was wondering if there was some Wii game we could get that would help out.

I pondered the new Wii Resort, but decided that the reference to Wii Music ought to focus the search.  So I went about looking into the Wii versions of the popular toy guitar games.

The first step last Monday was to walk over to the tech support department at the office, which is where most of the console gamers reside, and loudly ask the question, “Guitar Hero or Rock Band?”

They looked at me for about two beats and pretty much unanimously said, “Rock Band.”

I am going to guess that there was a certain amount of “pity the old guy and his Wii” in that recommendation because they followed up the response with a lot about Rock Band being easier, having “no fail mode” and such.

Which was the correct reasoning for a recommendation, since what I know about Rock Band and Guitar Hero wouldn’t have filled a thimble at that point.

I left to go look up reviews on Rock Band while they were still talking about sound/screen synchronization and the merits of the stage kit fog machine. (XBox 360 only I’m afraid.)

Some leafing through reviews showed that people thought the instruments with the original Rock Band were “teh suxor,” but most reviews seemed to really like the instruments that came with Rock Band 2.

Rock Band 2 was the choice.

The Choice

(Pictures for this post were all snatched from a Google Images search because, frankly, it wouldn’t have any pictures otherwise.)

So I went over to Amazon.com, forgetting to go through anybody’s web store front yet again, and ordered Rock Band 2. I opted for second day delivery despite the free delivery option being available.  I wanted to make sure we had it by Friday night so we could figure it out before Thanksgiving and I was afraid it might go via UPS, which has a habit of holding packages in their local warehouse until the delivery date has arrived.

Wednesday I got a call at work from my wife.  She told me that Rock Band had arrived, but that this giant box had also been delivered.  In her mind, a Wii game is about the size of a DVD, which she assumed was in the small box we got from Amazon.com.  I explained that the big box was Rock Band because it comes with a guitar and a drum kit.

I think this came as something of a surprise, but she was enthusiastic about it.

The box, about the size of Herve Villechaize‘s coffin, was deposited on the floor at one end of our family room, where it sat for over 24 hours without so much as a remark from my daughter, a level of obliviousness that I did not think we would see until the teenage years.  I finally had to ask her, “What’s in the box?” before she looked at it, looked at me, then asked back, “What’s in the box?”

Then I told her she would have to wait until I got home from work on Friday to find out.  That built a level of anticipation in her that lasted for about 2 minutes, then she was off doing something else.  Spoiled child indeed.

Friday night finally rolled around, I got home from work, pizza was ordered, and my wife went off to some girl gathering leaving my daughter and I to unpack and setup of Rock Band 2.

I opened up the outer, then the inner box, and dumped all the bits and pieces onto the family room floor.  Then the impatience began as my daughter wanted to get in there and play right away while I had to do the Christmas Eve parental assembly routine.

This is what you get in the box:

Microphone, Drums, and Guitar

(annotated picture swiped from here just to make sure you knew which was the microphone)

About 30 minutes later, we had just about everything together and were ready to try it out.

The Guitar

The guitar… or the guitar controller, rather… is actually very nicely done.  It does not look or feel quite as much like a toy as other similar controllers I have seen.  It feels solid, if not as heavy as an actual electric guitar, and the buttons on the fret board are nicely colored only on the top of the neck, where you can see them when you’re holding the controller, as opposed to on the face of the fret board, where everybody except you can see them unless you tilt the guitar up.

The strap adjusted enough to accommodate both myself and my daughter at need and we were both able to at least get through the tutorial and an easy song or two right away without screwing up too badly.

The Drums

The drums controller is also reasonably solid.  It stood up to both of us beating on it for a few minutes.  Unfortunately, it only had to endure a few minutes until we gave up in frustration.

The drums are hard.

Or, rather, the drums are not as easy, even on easy mode, as the guitar.  When you select easy mode on the guitar, you only have to deal with three of the five possible buttons.  With the drums, even in easy mode, you have all four pads to beat on and the pedal to mash.  That was more than either of us were ready for on a Friday night.  Add in the fact that hitting the drums was somewhat loud yet unsatisfying and we went anti-drum pretty fast.

So the drums got placed over in the corner of the room, where they have remained untouched.

Mr. Microphone

With two of us playing the game, that left the microphone as the only other option.  My daughter wanted to play with the guitar still, so that left me on vocals, the front man for the group.

So where the drums are hard, even on easy mode, the vocals seemed very easy.  On easy mode I was belting out extremely high percentages and pretty much holding the act together while the audience was booing my daughter off stage.  Show biz is tough.

After having gone through a couple of songs though, I became pretty sure that one of those multi-tone car alarms would score moderately well in easy mode.

Still, it was nice to not be completely out of my depth for a little bit.  I did find that my own natural range (which runs from F-flat to C-you later) was so limited that I had to move straight to a low falsetto in order to keep my pitch on track with the little meter at the top of the screen.

That worked, but I have my usual problem of singing just as badly compounded by doing so while trying to sound like I am in one of the Monty Python “pepperpot” sketches.

The Songs

Rock Band 2 comes with 84 songs.  You can only play a few of them in Quick Play mode it seems, even after entering the alleged “unlock all” cheat code, so I am probably missing something.  Of the list we were allowed to choose from, we favored:

We Got The Beat – A song I chose because I knew the words.  Or I thought I did, anyway.  It can be amazing to find out you’ve been singing along WRONG for 25 years.

Hungry Like The Wolf – Again, thought I knew the words… I didn’t.  Even my wife was surprised at how much the lyrics varied from her own imagination.  Still, manageable on easy mode as long as we leave the drums out of the picture.

Cool for Cats – My daughter’s favorite, the one we have to play over and over.  This is where my daughter and I are of different minds.  She likes to pick a song and, you know, practice and get better, while I just want to turn on “No Fail” mode, crank through the whole play list, shout, “Thank You San Jose!” and call it a night.

We are getting better at it.  I think my daughter likes the song because it implies that cats are cool.  I am certain that she doesn’t understand the actual lyrics.  Hell, I’ve sung it more than a dozen times now and *I* don’t understand the lyrics.  But it is rock and roll, and it is better to sound good than to be good… or something.

Eye of the Tiger – The only other song on the Quick Play list that I knew.  My daughter wasn’t keen on it, despite having “Tiger” in the title.

We did try a few other items on the list, but few were familiar to me at all, so we seem to always end up back at “Cool for Cats.”

Downloadable Content

We went and explored the list of downloadable content for Rock Band 2.  There is quite a long list available.  Since we had some Wii points available, we grabbed Pretty Fly (for a White Guy) because it is the basis for the parody Pretty Fly (for a Dranei).  I was up for it, but it was quickly pulled from our rotation by my daughter because it contains a bad word.

I also threatend to download White Rabbit until I let my daughter listen to it on iTunes first.  That got the axe, which was probably just as well, since the downloadable content uses up a big chunk of the memory on the Wii and we seem to have filled up our SD Card with pictures from Pokemon Ranch.

So I have to figure that out before we can spend any more Wii Points on downloads.

Second Guitar?

After a few days fooling around, what I really want to get is a second guitar.  The guitar controller is the obvious cool aspect of the game.  I would go by Fry’s on the way home and buy one today, if I could find something somewhere online or in the written instructions with a simple title like, “How to add a Second Guitar to Rock Band 2.”

I have yet to find that, and the guitars look to be expensive enough that I’m not going there unless I know it will work.

Overall

So far we are having fun.  We have woken the Wii up from what has been a long summer sleep and we jump around in the family room in front of the TV for 30-45 minutes at a stretch, usually right before bed time.

We’ll see how things play out on Thanksgiving.  Maybe we can get somebody to play the drums.  As for songs I know, my backup plan was in that small box that arrived at the same time Rock Band 2 did.