If I could have finished Lego Rock Band in a single evening without permanently melting my wrists, I would have. What I expected to treat as a glorified song pack and simply export to my 360's hard drive ended up being one hell of a fun standalone game, worthy of both the Rock Band and Lego names. There's a lot to love in Lego Rock Band--here are a few highlights:
- Never fail out of songs. If your audience meter drops into "fail-out" territory you just start losing points from your total, but are given a special recovery mode that gives you a chance to claw your way back into positive territory.
- The drum pedal is optional. You can turn on a modifier that will let you completely ignore the drum pedal. About time, and definitely a good idea for getting families playing.
- Super-easy mode. This will probably be a hit for the younger players.
- Points = Cash. The points you accumulate translate directly into Lego studs, the coin of the realm in all Lego games.
- Fan loyalty. I didn't lose any fans after turning in a 3-star performance after a long string of 5-star shows; this should make this aspect of the game less frustrating, especially to younger players.
- Fun venues. The venues are fun and imaginative; my favorites so far are the pirate ship and the haunted mansion, and there are strong implications we'll eventually be playing in space.
- Cut albums. There are special setlist challenges where you first pick out album art, name the album, and choose songs. Once you've played the set, it's immortalized in your record collection. If you've ever said to yourself "hey, that'd make a great name for a record," your moment has finally arrived.
- Your characters are used in the cutscenes. This is just plain cool, and a nice payoff for taking the time to customize your minifig band members.
- Whimsy. The joy and whimsy and sense of humor of the other Lego games produced by Travelers Tales pervade Lego Rock Band, from big sight gags to amusing little details.
- Famous Lego musicians. David Bowie and Freddie Mercury are freaking awesome as minifigs. Seriously.
- Songs that are party/spouse-friendly. My wife often bows out of playing Rock Band with me because she doesn't think she knows many of the songs. Last night I kept catching her singing along to things from the couch, so that's a good sign. Okay, so there's still a bunch of songs I'd never heard before, but I'm going to blame that on the fact that I haven't really been listening to the radio since 1995ish.
- DLC. You've got access to a certain "family-friendly" subset of your existing downloads, and there's a "family-friendly" version of the music store. The identification of what's "family-friendly" seems to fall a bit on the conservative side, but I suspect this will be tuned as time goes on.
- Customize your "rock den" (aka menu screens). You'll unlock various items throughout the game that you can use to decorate your "rock den"--hang posters on the walls, set a tuba next to your guitar case, customize your lights and jukebox... It's a nice bit of extra detail that feels very Lego.
I have only a couple of minor quibbles:
- Difficulty ratings have changed again. Finally, proof that "Behind Blue Eyes" is not a measly 2-dot difficulty on guitar. Still, it would be nice if the RB family of games could report the difficulty level consistently.
- Some pretty hard songs at the beginning of the game. I naïvely jumped right into playing the first song of the game on Expert... Turns out it's rated at 4 dots of difficulty on guitar! Ouch!
- Repetition of some songs. In a couple places, you'll be presented with a special rock challenge... where you start by playing the song you literally just finished playing. It's not common, but when it happens it's really irritating, especially if you weren't that into the song to begin with.
Anyway. I'm overall very pleased with it and can't wait to play through the rest of the game. After all, I have to find out what Freddie Mercury's doing on that flying saucer!