LEGO Rock Band ReviewBy Paul Semel - Posted Nov 03, 2009
LEGO Rock Band isn't for Rock Band fans, or even LEGO Batman fans old enough to buy games on their own. But if you're the parent of a little kid and want a game that you can play together, you'd be hard pressed to find anything that will keep you both as engaged and entertained.
- Fun for kids
- Easy for parents
- Has usual LEGO hilarity
- Not all kids want to play kiddie games
- Funny videos can be distracting
- Some odd adult-ry
Upon hearing that they were making a music game with LEGOs, a great man was heard to exclaim, “That's the best idea ever!”
The the great man in question was Jack - a video game-obsessed six-year-old whose favorite games include LEGO Batman, Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes, and Need For Speed on his dad's iPhone - does put things into perspective. LEGO Rock Band is not made for hardcore gamers, serious music game fans, or anyone who doesn't use fractions when asked their age. But if there's a Jack in your family, or you're like Jack, then LEGO Rock Band is…okay, it's not the best idea ever - I'm thinking sliced bread, myself - but it's a gosh darn good one.
The Kids Are Alright
As you can surmise from the name, LEGO Rock Band is indeed a music game with LEGOs. The game plays almost exactly the same as other music games and it looks the same, too—from the fret board to the iconography, along with roadies and other hangers-on to hire, as well as both random and player's choice set lists. There are also the usual music game modes: Free Play, Story Mode (in which you, having just seen Queen on TV, decide to start your own band), and Rock Power Challenges that'll test your skills.
It's just that the game has been thoroughly LEGOized for your pleasure. All the characters are LEGO people, the notes coming down the fret board are LEGO blocks, and instead of paying you in dollars, you're paid in LEGO studs. Also, of course, there’s a character creation section, though befitting the license, it's a simplified one—you only modify your characters’ shirts, pants, heads, and hair—with some rather silly options (two words: “anime buns”).
All songs are also decidedly family friendly, so anyone hoping to play W.A.S.P.'s “Animal (F*#k Like A Beast)” with a LEGO version of Blackie Lawless is, well, s*%t out of luck. Instead, the game features such tunes as Elton John's classic rock ditty “Crocodile Rock,” the Counting Crow's contribution to the Shrek 2 soundtrack “Accidentally In Love,” and Sum 41's punk-pop hit “In Too Deep”. You can even buy more songs previously available as downloads for Rock Band from your system's respective built-in store, but only if they're suitable for all ages.
Not surprisingly, LEGO Rock Band is pretty easy. The set list is largely comprised of pop tunes, and as we all know from playing the other 47,861 music games that came out this year, pop tunes are easier in these games than rock ones. Also, while “Hard” and “Expert” are still aptly named, playing on “Easy” or “Medium” feels even easier and, uh, medium-er than regular Rock Band. Which, if you've ever compared Rock Band to Guitar Hero, is saying something.
The game even employs some tricks from previous Rock Band and Guitar Hero games to accommodate younger and less skilled fans. Not only is there a “Super Easy” mode, which only requires you to hit a button—any button—in time with the music, but there's also an auto bass feature for drummers that does the pedal pushing for you. There's also a simple recovery mechanic for when you fail out. Miss too many notes and you lose some LEGO studs, but if you hit the recovery notes, you'll get many of your studs back. Not that you’ll need it, since you really have to miss a lot of notes to fail.
And yes, we mean you, mom and dad. But don't feel too bad, you'll get the hang of it. Eventually.
Oddly, one aspect of this game might make things tougher for adults: the funny background videos. While playing “We Will Rock You” isn't difficult unto itself, it is when you realize you're doing it while LEGO versions of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon are playing along with you.
While LEGO Rock Band is clearly aimed at six-year-olds and their parents, there are some odd adult bits in this game. For example, one singer who auditions for your band is clearly a fan of Carcass and Cannibal Corpse. The game also features blocky versions of some rock stars, most notably the aforementioned Queen. While none of this seems inappropriate for little kids, we doubt most six-year-olds will find LEGO versions of Iggy Pop or David Bowie as hilariously odd as adults will.
Still, the absence of LEGO Lemmy is inexcusable.
There are also some head scratchers in the set list. The nu-metal band Korn is included with their cover of Cameo's “Word Up”, as are The Jimi Hendrix Experience with “Fire” (Fittingly, the most difficult track in the game.), and the punk icon Iggy Pop with “The Passenger”. Granted, none are as offensive as W.A.S.P., but they're still weird choices. Those songs instead of tunes by Miley Cyrus or Taylor Swift.
There is also one major flaw in the idea of making a kiddie version of Rock Band: As the father of another (albeit older than six) video game-obsessed kid once told me, the thing his son likes about playing regular Rock Band is that it's his chance to play a grown-up game. He likes being able to play a game his dad plays. Granted, the aforementioned six-year-old won't care about such things, but if your kid is older and wants to be even older, they won't want to play a game with stupid toys in it.
The Final Piece
LEGO Rock Band isn't for Rock Band fans, or even LEGO Batman fans old enough to buy games on their own. But if you're the parent of a little kid and want a game that you can play together, you'd be hard pressed to find anything that will keep you both as engaged and entertained. Just as Jack, who after playing a bit of the game once exclaimed, “This game is really awesome, it was really creative. And I liked the guy with spiky hair.”