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Band Hero
Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Budcat Creations
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Rhythm/ Party/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
Band Hero is recognizable at a glance as being part of the Guitar Hero series of games. It has the same cartoon style and, for that matter, all of the familiar Guitar Hero characters, such as Lars Umlaut, Judy Nails and Izzy Sparks. In general, Band Hero is visually geared towards a more "Pop" scene, and the venues reflect this.

The music in Band Hero includes 65 different songs which are more "mainstream" than the typically guitar-heavy songs that come in Guitar Hero games. This may be appealing for those who like music, but haven't been too thrilled by the song selections in previous Guitar Hero games.

One thing that's awesome in the Band Hero game is the addition of actual contextual choreography in the songs. For example, when your band is performing Carl Douglas' "Kung Fu Fighting," your vocalist will make the appropriate chopping motions when they sing "...they were chopping them up... and chopping them down." Your bassist will get into the act, as well, throwing some well-timed kicks at certain places in the song. And, of course, in the Village People's "Y.M.C.A.," the vocalist does the hand motions to spell out the letters, in time to the music. Too much!

Also on the disc are some "behind the scenes" videos featuring No Doubt and other artists as they were in the process of having their performances recorded. It's just a little extra, but it was nice.

I know that I'm spoiled by having played the PS3 version as well, but... although Band Hero is freakin' awesome on the PS3, it's still pretty cool on the PS2. There is still some customization, although not to the same level as is available on the PS3. The song selection is of a reasonable size, and has a lot of good songs (in my opinion), but, with the PS2 version, you don't get the whole interchange with other Guitar Hero games that can easily boost your available songs from 65 to upwards of 128 songs, like you can on the PS3 or 360. Likewise, you can't export the songs back to previous games, either. The thing that really puts a damper on the fun in the PS2 version, however, is the load times. The load times can be quite lengthy, which can be frustrating and could cause some players to lose interest if played during a party.

What you do get with Band Hero is a tried and true engine, with a less guitar-heavy mix of music that is perfect for teens and tweens, as well as those of us who prefer No Doubt and Everclear to The Rolling Stones or Aerosmith.

If you're interested in playing an instrument and singing vocals, Band Hero supports this natively, so you don't have to use a controller in addition to the guitar (or drumset) and a microphone. Just select the option to "Add Vocals" after selecting your instrument and you can use the guitar (or drum) controller to control the vocalist as well as your other character. This is an interesting feature and the Star Power from both characters affect your primary character, which was interesting.

In fact, using the "Add Vocals" feature can be useful when you have one player singing vocals and one player on an instrument, but needing some assistance. Playing this way with an awesome vocalist (such as Psibabe) will lead to a fairly constant stream of Star Power, which helps you rack up points quickly. This allows her performance to help mine, rather than her doing awesome and me just doing really good.

If you need practice, however, there is a Practice mode just for that. Also, there are difficulty levels that go from really difficult all the way down to requiring the minimal amount of rhythm and/or physical ability (Beginner, Easy, Medium, Hard and Expert). On Beginner, the guitars and drums only care that you strum at the right time; the microphone merely needs to see that you're making some sort of sound when the words are supposed to be sung. Get your little sister or drunken friend to hum a note into the microphone for the duration of the song and you should score perfectly on the vocals on Beginner.

Game Mechanics:
Band Hero really is the perfect showcase for illustrating... the limitations of the PS2. I try desperately to avoid scores being affected by "comparisons" to specific games - especially the same game on another platform. I attempt to review a game based on what that game is, not what it could have been. However, the differences between the PS2 version of Band Hero and the PS3/360/Wii version of Band Hero reads almost identically to the list of things that make Band Hero interesting on those platforms. Without the ability to use music from other games and to export music to those games, the music selection becomes much more restrictive. While I don't want to take points off of the score for this game not being flexible and allowing all four players to play whatever instrument they want, that gimmick helps to justify the release of Band Hero as a game, rather than a Track Pack. Of course, if it were a Track Pack for the PS2, it would still need to be a standalone game, since the PS2 doesn't do DLC.

With the PS2 reaching the years when it can no longer remember its heyday (and enjoys heart problems and incontinence), I would expect that most people considering this version are very limited in their game-purchasing budgets. Band Hero evidently understands this and is compatible with a wide variety of controllers, making it easier to fill out a band-worth of equipment with whatever you can find or whatever your friends already have. I played one song where I played with one Xbox 360 (USB) Rock Band guitar, one old-skool Guitar Hero PS2 guitar and a Rock Band microphone (from the PS3 version of the game) - all by myself - with all of the difficulties set to Beginner. (I got three stars, by the way.)

In the end, the PS2 version of Band Hero can be seen as either a stripped-down version of Band Hero or a re-skinned mainstream version of Guitar Hero with Choreography. Either way, the load times are hard to forgive. If you have a PS2 (and that's all you have) and you like Guitar Hero games conceptually but prefer the music in Band Hero, then this is the game for you. If, however, you have a more recent system or plan to get one in the near future, you should get the PS3, 360 or Wii version. There are a lot of features out there... they're just not in here.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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