Harmonix is reviving Amplitude this summer and, if recent rumors hold up, Activison might bring back Guitar Hero. The lows of the rhythm genre are real low, but I'm ready for that high again.
Going into this weekend's PAX Ea... read
Nominated for Excellence in Audio at the Independent Games Festival
// Jordan Devore
While watching this trailer for THUMPER, a self-described rhythm violence game from current Harmonix artist Brian Gibson and former lead programmer Marc Flury, I didn't want to blink. I also let out a confused "what?" follow... read
In mid-January, Harmonix surprised everyone by breaking its radio silence on Rock Band with the first set of downloadable songs in almost two years. While it's not quite the return to weekly DLC, Harmonix looks to be ba... read
I hope you weren't too excited for a March release date for the upcoming Amplitude reboot, as Harmonix has announced that it has been delayed until "summer" for quality concerns. The developer says that they don't want to cut... read
The Rock Band franchise has shown promising signs of revitalization lately. Earlier this week, there was the surprise announcement of a trio of fresh downloadable tracks. Now, Harmonix has posted a survey throwing all so... read
Foo Fighters, Avenged Sevenfold, and Arctic Monkeys
// Brett Makedonski
Remember the days of yesteryear when a bevy of plastic instruments was a de facto part of your interior design? Well, if you so wish, that look could make a comeback, as Harmonix is adding to the Rock Band library f... read
Dec 05 //
Amplitude (PS4 [Previewed], PS3)Developer: Harmonix Publisher: SCEARelease Date: Q2 2015
"This opportunity is to make the game we always wanted to," said product manager Annette Gonzalez while discussing the development of the game. As a reboot of the original, Amplitude features both an expanded track list and gameplay system. Even after the success of the games that followed, the developers wanted to have a shot at creating another title in the vein of Frequency and Amplitude.
"People really, really liked those games, they have fond memories of them, I have fond memories of them -- I played FreQuency and Amplitude a lot back in college -- but apparently they didn't really sell very well," said communications lead and former Destructoid editor-in-chief Nick Chester. "People loved it, it reviewed very well, but nobody bought them, so therefore we didn't make another Amplitude game and moved on to Karaoke Revolution, Guitar Hero games with Konami and Activision."
With the rise of game development via Kickstarter, Harmonix figured it was the perfect time to get the next game going. With its crowdfunding campaign, the studio wanted to gauge the current interest for the return of its earliest titles.
"Kickstarter was a great opportunity for us to say, 'well, you wanted another Amplitude game, right? We have permission from Sony to actually go ahead and do it, but do you really want this game, prove it.' If they were really interested in it, then it would get funded, and it did," said Chester.
For the uninitiated, Amplitude tasks players to ride the musical tracks as they match up each beat and verse with the corresponding buttons. With each track spread across multiple lanes, you'll have to actively switch between them to maintain your multiplier. If you miss too many verses and beats, your ship will cease function and end the track. With each timed beat, you rack up points and build your multiplier to activate special abilities, such as slow-mo, which slows down track speed, turning snazzy electro into a soothing and calm ambient pieces.
By far, the most apparent aspect of the game was how challenging it was. My first crack at the game was on medium setting, and I barely made it halfway before losing. Perhaps it was because I had a hard time grasping the rhythm, but I initially felt a bit overwhelmed by the pace. Thankfully, playing a few tracks got me in the swing of things. Though I certainly still had my work cut out for me, considering how easy the folks from Harmonix made it look during the more intense tracks.
As with all of Harmonix's titles, music is the core element of the experience. Featuring over 20 tracks, including licensed music from artists such as Anamanaguchi, Freezepop, and Kasson Krooker, Amplitude definitely seeks to reaffirm the studio's approach to music games. Moreover, Harmonix has also has incorporated original compositions that not only evoke the same hyperkinetic style of the original, but also manages to tell a consistent story with each passing track.
"They [original songs] have this dark and electro vibe to them to tell you enough about the narrative," said Nick Chester. "All the tracks in this build were written in-house by the folks at Harmonix, all of the core story for the game was written by us, and outside of that you can unlock other songs from other artists."
While much of the attention will be focused on the music, the visuals also do a lot to bring players into the experience. Amplitude's visual aesthetic feels like a mix between the bombastic and otherworldly Rez, with the vaguely familiar look of the digital world from Tron. Moreover, the visuals become more pronounced and striking as the track reaches crescendo, taking players on a trek through light and sound.
Not content with offering the same experience with new visuals and sounds, Harmonix wants to implement features into Amplitude that take advantage of modern gameplay. In addition to online leaderboards for tracks, players can also engage in multiplayer matches against others locally. During our demo, we tried out the four-player battle mode, which pitted players against each other on the same track. As you can imagine, things got pretty hectic as every had to find an empty lane to score points. After each verse, the lane would collapse, forcing everyone scramble for the next lane to maintain the multiplier.
I came away pretty pleased with what I played. Harmonix has certainly refined its craft for music games, and even though the title is only 60-70% complete, it is on track as a product that will reassure fans of the original and those looking for a unique and challenging take on rhythm action. Amplitude is one title you'll want to keep an eye out for next year.
3-2-1, Let's Jam Before the folks at Harmonix Studios put themselves on the map with Guitar Hero and Rock Band, it was known for the cult hits Frequency and Amplitude. Blending fast-paced rhythm-based action with mesmerizing visuals and ... read feature
Oct 21 //
A City Sleeps (PC [reviewed], Mac)Developer: Harmonix Music Systems, IncPublisher: Harmonix Music Systems, IncReleased: October 16, 2014MSRP:$14.99
A City Sleeps is an experiment for Harmonix, and it very much feels like it (with all the good and ill that implies). While the side-scrolling arcade shoot-'em-up genre is a total departure from its previous body of work, the studio's fixation with music remains present as ever, cleverly blending the action on screen to the soundtrack.
Both the player and the enemies fire in time with the music, creating a synesthesia-like experience of sensory interplay; listening is often as important as watching closely, and getting into the rhythm of the soundtrack can mean the difference between successfully anticipating attacks and being in the right place at the right time, or dying a clumsy embarrassing death.
More than any other shmup I've played, when it's at its best, City encourages the sublime trance-like experience of total concentration that enthusiasts of the genre know and love. Which is why it's a shame there are so many small annoyances and flaws that will frequently, and rudely, snap you out of that hypnotic state. City casts the player as Poe, a sort of dream-exorcist who is able to dive into the sub-conscious minds of others and purge them of their personal demons.
The game is set in a super-slick techno-future where the line between "person" and "personal computer" has blurred to a point of non-distinction. The dreamlike imagery focuses on that tension, calling up visions of ruined cities, clockwork machinery, and teaming insects representing the hivemind grid the entire population is plugged into. The soundtrack alternates between the synthy-electronica of living inside a computer and sombre, ambient sounds that bring to mind isolation and disconnection. It has a great, hip futuristic sensibility reminiscent of Transistor (always a good thing).
Sadly, those interesting visuals are as much a stumbling block as an asset. Each screen is cluttered with a barrage of visual information. Dull, frequently static and unanimated enemies get lost in the backgrounds, often colored too similarly to stand out against them. Enemy fire and obstacles dissolve in a mess of sheer sensory overload, with too many competing colors and flashing lights assaulting your eyes at once. It's frustrating to constantly smack into unseen attacks even after replaying a Dream several times over.
Adding to the visual clutter are the Idols, a key gameplay mechanic unique to City that sets it apart from other shmups. As a dream-exorcist, Poe has a collection of helpful Ghosts that can be plugged into Idols, large floating, abstract objects such as statues or railway cars, to provide various support effects also in time with the music.
You start with the Ghosts of Anger and Mercy, which act as an extra damage dealer and a healing fountain respectively, and unlock more exotic options as you complete the Dreams on higher stages of difficulty. Poe can only carry three Ghosts at once and each Ghost has two different functions depending on what type of Idol it is slotted into, creating a variety of tactical choices to consider.
While offering an intriguing element of depth, the Ghosts are also visually overwhelming. The Idols take up a massive amount of the screen, and when active, emit a large colored highlight around themselves, as well as spew out whatever effect the Ghost is producing. The screen is soon dominated by colossal shock-waves, a smattering of orbs, and tons of other visual garbage that betray not only the cool aesthetic of the title, but the ability to proficiently play it. The Idols and Ghosts are a fantastic idea, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
Difficulty is always a personal thing, especially in a niche genre like shmups that tends to cater to a hardcore, specialized audience. I consider myself a shmup enthusiast; while I've never 1-CCed a game, I'm in deep enough to know and care about what a 1-CC is (clearing the game on a single credit or continue for the uninformed out there). I can safely say, this game is hard (and not in a fun way).
There are five stages of difficulty to play through, and the curve is severe. City is unsatisfyingly breezy on the lowest difficulty setting, but quickly escalates to near-impossibility. The confusing visuals are compounded by slippery controls that don't respond quickly or accurately enough to deal with the lattice-work of death you'll frequently contend with. Furthering the frustration is Poe's anemic firepower, that is often unable to defeat larger enemies before they simply wander off after torturing you for a while.
I eventually managed to beat all three Dreams on the forth difficulty setting and two of them on the fifth by the very skin of my teeth (from the leaderboard information, it seems only one person has conquered the most demanding Dream on the highest difficulty at the time of this review). While hardcore shmup nuts will appreciate the challenge, many players will likely find themselves stymied and unable to progress deeper into the game.
This is doubly frustrating as City locks alternate Ghosts and passive upgrade Relics behind successfully completing higher difficulties. These Ghosts and upgrades offer some of the coolest mechanics in the game, and in many ways seem necessary to enjoying it.
For example, the Master Ghost and its associated Relic allow you to apply devastating damage to enemies through skillful, and risky, screen positioning based on where you are relative to the possessed Idol. It's a great mechanic. On one hand, it adds another layer of strategy and thought onto an already hectic and stressful situation, but if you use it right, you'll be able to eliminate enemies before they can overwhelm you. It quickly became my favorite tool.
Handy as it is, some players might not ever be able to unlock it, and this seems to be a constant theme. As you progress you get speed-boosting passives, an upgrade that makes the healing Ghost substantially more effective, and damage perks that all combine to offset much of the earlier frustration. It's understandable that Harmonix wanted to include some element of progression and reward for tackling the bigger challenges, but it seems like all the best toys are hidden in the back-end of the game, past the point where many players will likely throw up their hands and uninstall.
Adding insult to injury, you can take those unlocked Ghosts and perks back to earlier tiers of difficulty. So players stuck at one point can't even amuse themselves trying to crack the leaderboard. A player that has unlocked all the goodies can just circle back and ace those difficulties to a degree that's impossible to compete with if you only have the default loadout.
There are only three Dreams and three interactive soundtracks to enjoy. While the higher difficulty levels do offer some degree of replayability, it's hard not to feel left wanting by the paltry amount of content available. It feels like the game is just starting to roll when you hit the credits, the record scratching to a sudden unexpected stop.
The whole experience is frustrating, because there is a genuinely cool game hidden somewhere in there. As an examination of other ways to apply rhythm and sound to gameplay mechanics, it is a solid proof of concept. There were moments while I was playing it that the world around me seemed to fade away and I didn't even think about the controller in my hand. But then I'd hit one of the many snags, die another frustrating unfair death, and the experience would be soured.
A City Sleeps feels like a half-made game. Perhaps if they had a little more time or budget to add a few more Dreams, and even out the experience for players of all skill levels, it might have been something special. As it is, A City Sleeps is strictly for hardcore shoot-'em-up fans and people who are intensely curious about the future of rhythm games (an interesting Venn diagram for sure).
Flat note [Disclosure: Nick Chester, who is currently employed at Harmonix, previously worked at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the review.]
It's a weird time to be Harmonix. It i... read feature
Oct 21 //
Fantasia: Music Evolved (Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: HarmonixPublisher: Disney Interactive StudiosReleased: October 21, 2014MSRP: $59.99 (Xbox One) / $49.99 (Xbox 360)
At first glance Fantasia looks rather confusing, but it's basically Elite Beat Agents mixed with the Kinect. During each song, specific notes will appear on the screen. The most basic note is the directional swipe, which allows you to use either hand to gesture in the direction required. Next are dots, which require a punch forward to initiate. Then you have holds that involve holding one or two arms for a specific amount of time.
On paper it sounds simplistic, but sitting down (or standing up) and playing is something else entirely. The way Fantasia gives you said notes feels fluid. The aim is to make you feel like you're conducting what's on screen, and based on my experiences, it accomplishes that goal. Like any rhythm game you'll eventually start figuring out how to get the highest score, and come up with your own advanced tactics.
What I quickly learned is that any "flick" motion with either of your hands will cue a swipe. So I got into the habit of using both hands at the same time, "queuing" up directions in my head as they appeared on-screen. You can also use two hands for fun even if it's a single note -- it's a flexible, intuitive system without being too forgiving.
It reminds me of the first time I played Guitar Hero, and had to relearn almost everything I knew about the genre with the new guitar controller. It's like that, with your body replacing a plastic instrument. Harmonix has done right by the device. Since it's the Kinect 2.0 with vastly superior sensors, it actually works. I hardly ever had a moment where the game didn't recognize what I was doing, and it only took me a few songs to get into the rhythm of how to play.
The Sorcerer Yen Sid and his apprentice Scout will guide you through the game's campaign mode, which is a journey through various themed worlds like "The Hollow," and "The Nation." These venues range from space-age structures to modern cities, and serve as a delivery system for the game's beautiful art (and the soundtrack, of course). While I wouldn't say that Music Evolved is one of the best-looking current-gen games on a technical level, the art style itself ranks among Harmonix's finest work. The story itself might not be groundbreaking, but it's worth the ride.
Sadly, you'll have to play through the game's story mode to unlock a lot of the track list for free play. I'm generally not a fan of this locking method for rhythm games, as it can often lead to playing a great deal of songs you have zero interest in just to get to the "good stuff." The campaign is decent enough on its own to warrant a playthrough without locking content, and hopefully an update can change this ideology in the future. Free play also supports multiplayer, which is fun enough with two people in the mix even if it doesn't fundamentally change the mechanics.
As for the track list itself, the actual Fantasia songs are easily the best part -- the "conductor" gameplay simply feels better and more rewarding with older tunes than newer ones. Tracks from Vivaldi and Franz Liszt felt like unique experiences I can't get from any other game on the market.
Then the game pulls a 180 and throws "Super Bass" from Nicki Minaj on the screen, followed by "Take Care" from Drake, and I'm thrown out of the moment a bit and put into a zone that feels more like Dance Central. The good news is out of the 33 songs in the base game, there is a decent mix of artists that are older but not quite ancient and still offer up something special, like Elton John, Jimi Hendrix, and David Bowie. Fantasia's in-game soundtrack by Inon Zur is also fantastic, and a great tribute to the films.
Another cool thing about the track list is that each song has multiple remixes, including metal and orchestral mixes. You can change up the theme dynamically through an in-game mechanic, which is tied to extra multipliers and thus a higher score. Still, I wish there were more classical songs on offer, and nearly all of the announced DLC so far is contemporary.
I definitely understand what Harmonix seeks to gain from mixing in Justin Bieber with timeless tunes like "Night on Bald Mountain" in Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved, but at times, it feels like a waste of the license. I'm just glad that the gameplay is so solid and feels so new that the sound of a less-than-desirable song is still something worth playing.
Magical, but I want a bit more old pixie dust [Disclosure: Nick Chester, who is currently employed at Harmonix, previously worked at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the review.]
Fantasia holds a special place in... read feature
A challenging bullet-hell shooter for the rhythmically inclined
// Rob Morrow
Harmonix's chaotic-looking but nonetheless stylish music-driven shoot-'em-up A City Sleeps is now available on Steam and there's currently a 10% discount bringing the price to $13.49.
While I typically shy away from bullet-h... read
I believe that Harmonix's Disney Fantasia Music Evolved is one of those games you'll have to experience for yourself to really get. You can read our previews and get some idea of how it made us feel, but I really think that t... read
Oct 09 //
Dance Central Spotlight (Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: HarmonixPublisher: HarmonixReleased: September 2, 2014MSRP: $9.99 (with 10 songs)
First things first -- what is Spotlight? It's basically a delivery system for all the game's DLC, and a bite-sized offering of the original games. It is $9.99 at its base price, which nets you 10 songs. Every other song can be purchased for roughly $2 as DLC, and all of your past DLC will import into Spotlight (but you can't import the games proper).
Here are the 10 tunes you get with the core game: "Counting Stars" by OneRepublic, "Diamonds" by Rihanna, "Happy" by Pharrell Williams, "I Wish" by Cher Lloyd, "Royals" by Lorde, "Show Me" by Kid Ink, "Talk Dirty" by Jason Derulo, "#thatpower" by will.i.am, "Titanium" by David Guetta, and "Wake Me Up" by Avicii. The problem right off the bat for me is that a number of these tracks aren't particularly exciting, with the exception of "Happy" -- provided that you haven't gotten sick of it yet -- and "Titanium."
With a very strong core pack of songs, including a mixture of both new and old tunes, Spotlight could have been a must-buy for fans. Instead, you'll have to dig into the DLC library to get some variety, such as A-Ha's "Take on Me" and The B-52's "Love Shack." My favorite thing about Dance Central 3 was that it constantly switched between classic and modern tracks without players needing to fumble around with DLC, which isn't really represented here.
Having said that, $10 isn't a bad price for a starter pack, and considering the price of past games, you can build your own library as more songs are released. Each track also sports eight routines (Beginner, Standard, Deluxe, Pro, Alternate, Cardio, Strength, Alternate Pro) in Spotlight.
If you look at the core game though, Spotlight looks, feels, and controls like a full release. The Kinect movements are still accurate, you can still dance with a friend, and the routines have enough variety in them to keep you interested for at least a few sessions each. In fact, the Kinect 2.0 hardware feels even more accurate than its predecessor, which goes a long way if you're a perfectionist. I definitely can't state that strongly enough -- fans who have played past games in the series will pick up on the enhanced accuracy.
One of the best parts of Spotlight is the instant practice mode concept. All you have to do is basically ask Kinect to practice in the middle of a song, and it will take you to another screen that lets you learn a part you're having trouble with. In the past you either had to practice the entire tune or skip to a certain part with multiple clicks, so having this instant mechanic is great for mastering that one part you always screw up.
Gone is a lot of the charm that came with Dance Central 3's campy "crews" -- instead, you're going to see a lot less flair and just straight gameplay. That may be a good thing for a lot of people who disliked the goofiness of the series, but for me it's all part of what makes Dance Central unique.
As a side note, a few features have also been cut, like H-O-R-S-E, eight-person multiplayer (it only supports two now), and Kinect photo sessions, though fitness mode is still in, with some improvements like more workout tweaks. Although most people won't really notice the enhancements, if you still play fitness mode to this day Spotlight is probably worth the upgrade.
If you have an Xbox 360 and a Kinect handy, you'd be better off just picking up prior Dance Central games on the cheap and reaping the benefits of an extended library, better multiplayer, and more game modes. But for everyone else who bought an Xbox One and has a Kinect collecting dust, it's a great way to bring some life to your next party.
A bite-sized performance [Disclosure: Nick Chester, who is currently employed at Harmonix, previously worked at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the review.]
Although it's been a lot tougher to ge... read feature
Judging by the first gameplay video of Harmonix's reboot of Amplitude, development's coming along rather nicely but is still far from done. This prototype update for Kickstarter backers is heavy on placeholder visuals and ha... read
Harmonix is discontinuing support for the Rock Band Network, the online service that allowed users to upload and sell downloadable tracks for the Rock Band series.
The network has produced more than 2,000 songs since opening ... read
Remember that new Samsung Gear VR that we told you about a few days ago? Harmonix sends word that they've signed on to create a new virtual reality experience for the device.
Harmonix Music VR is a music-listening dream... read
Dance Central Spotlight is a thing that's out today on Xbox One. It's basically a digital bite-sized version of the series that includes 10 songs as its base, with more available as DLC. For fans of the franchise, it's n... read
Aug 29 //
The underlying brilliance behind A City Sleeps is its accessibility. Most players familiar with twin-stick shooters will feel an instant comfort controlling it. Left stick to move, right stick to shoot. Easy enough. However, complications start to arise when the game asks you to not only be skilled, but to factor in technique as well.
A City Sleeps tells the tale of Poe as she enters the dreams of citizens of SanLo City in an attempt to save them from their unending nightmares. If it sounds confusing, that's because it kind of is. Harmonix's Nick Chester told us that the team hasn't quite figured out how it'll convey the story, but it'll likely be through cutscenes or text. The build that we played contained neither, so we were unable to glean any of that on our own.
Moving through dream worlds as she does, Poe has control over three ghosts -- Anger, Mercy, and Master. The catch is that these spirits can only be unleashed at certain idols that appear at predetermined spots as the level progresses. Doing fine on health but have some nasty enemies on the screen? Anger will deal an area-of-effect attack that damages anything in its radius, or Master will significantly weaken anything between you and the idol. Conversely, Mercy will shoot out bursts of oft-needed health, for those in the mood to sacrifice offense for defense.
It all sounds basic enough, but music is the element that ties everything together. Without it, it'd be a frantic mess. However, the musical score is dynamic, leading to sections that are slightly slower or faster depending on the action on the screen. Likewise, Poe's shot speed follows the speed of the score, as do the idols which will disburse their assigned power-ups usually on the downbeat of a measure.
It culminates in an experience that is entirely predictable for the musically inclined, but still difficult enough for even seasoned bullet hell players. Getting into a groove and knowing which idol you need to be by at any point in a measure, while dashing around and doling out damage can be supremely rewarding. Any break from the rhythm will leave you scrambling to dodge projectiles, but regaining the momentum instantly puts you back in sync.
Although music is so integral to A City Sleeps, Chester thinks that shoot-'em-up fans will find a real challenge here. Given some time with the game on an easier difficulty, we're inclined to agree. It's certainly no cakewalk, as we felt the heavy hand of failure more than once. Juggling ghosts, shooting at enemies, and avoiding bullets is a lot to ask of even the finest multitasker; the music's just there as a fine guide.
Hands-on with A City Sleeps Music has always been at the heart of what Harmonix does. From Rock Band to Dance Central to the extremely experimental Chroma, the studio's made sure that whatever the player's doing, they'll nod their head and tap... read feature
Harmonix announces A City Sleeps, a musical twin-stick shoot 'em up a heaping helping of anime and bullets. It's like a musical Geometry Wars. Harmonix says that soundtrack synchronization drives projectiles, movement, bulle... read
Harmonix is headed to PAX Prime in Seattle this weekend, and bringing with them Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved, as well as swag and some brand new songs that you can check out if you happen to be in attendance. The event's on... read
Harmonix's latest venture in exploiting how uncoordinated you are is set to take off in the fall. Just announced today, Dance Central Spotlight will release on Xbox One on September 2 at a price point of $9.99. Right off... read
It's been a few number of years since Harmonix last implored us to flood our living rooms with plastic instruments in the spirit of faux-rock stardom, but the music games developer is gauging interest in a return to form. Har... read
Jun 09 //
Dale North There's a new fitness mode that will give players up to 90 minutes of non-stop dancing to burn calories. A new practice mode can be called forth at any time to learn moves. There's also the ability to do a loop of routines, like a sort of playlist.
So far, these are the only confirmed songs for the tracklist:
“Wake Me Up” – Avicii
“Talk Dirty” – Jason Derulo ft. 2 Chainz
“Show Me” – Kid Ink ft. Chris Brown
“Counting Stars” – OneRepublic
“Happy” – Pharrell Williams
Kinect lives on
Dance Central Spotlight is a new Xbox One Kinect dancing title. The idea is to keep the focus on dancing and music, serving as a sort of follow-up to the hit Xbox 360 title Dance Central.
The difference here is that Spotligh... read feature
Jun 06 //
A new hands-on (hands-off?) session had us playing a newly revealed area called The Neighborhood. The scene features urban street art, psychedelic colors, and has a bit of a comic book vibe. Harmonix said that it was inspired by artists like The Who, and by songs like Cee Lo Green's "Forget You," among others. The area starts out pretty quiet, but as you move the Muse 3D cursor around to manipulate zones, it starts to come alive, first with radio signals, and later with music that you've unlocked.
A play through of "Forget You" had us layering rock guitars and keyboards with Cee Lo's original vocals from the hit song. Later, we chopped up drum loops in a composition spell, and created a keyboard solo by waving hands in another.
After this, a diversion into a subway stop of The Neighborhood had us doing a freestyle sequencing section with singing vegetables. A turnip and beet had their own vocal tracks, while a carrot dropped a beatbox track. By moving between the vegetables, the player can jam out to create their own loops, making their own track. This performance is then added back into The Neighborhood as background music. In this case, the trio was added to a train that came back around to the scene regularly.
A few new tracks for Fantasia: Music Evolved were announced during our session. Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" will be a part of this stage, as will The Police's "Message in a Bottle." On the classical side, "The Nutcracker" was pulled from the original Fantasia.
I tried my hand at Drake's "Take Care." Things got pretty interesting with alternate music tracks that underscored the entire song with acapella background vocals and beatbox rhythms.
Hands-on with new Neighborhood level Harmonix has thought a lot about how they'll welcome players to Fantasia: Music Evolved and they've decided to add a partner apprentice that will serve as a sort of game guide. Her name is Scout, a talented but impatient appr... read feature
Harmonix sends word that Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved finally has a solid release date: October 21, 2014, for Xbox One and Xbox 360.
We have a brand new preview for you to check out this morning. For now, here are the new ... read
May 29 //
Brittany Vincent Quest for Fame
Quest for Fame was an Aerosmith-themed PC rocker that came packaged with a light blue guitar pick peripheral. You know, back when the term “peripheral” didn’t simply mean “enormous piece of plastic I’ll later toss in my closet.” Though the game suggested you tap the pick against a hard surface, I usually found that smacking my thigh produced the best results via “rhythm EKG,” the meter for measuring your progress on-screen. This meant you looked like a total moron while playing. It was quick, raw, and fairly dirty, like any BioWare sex scene. But it effectively simulated the feeling of “playing” a real guitar. And to me, that meant something.
Unfortunately, through repeated use and abuse, the guitar pick eventually only responded when slammed against the computer desk in front of me. It was, however, a fresh look at a genre I’d never experienced before, and it hardly receives any of the credit it rightfully deserves as one of the first truly interactive guitar games to make you feel like a rock star.
Space Channel 5
Atomic pink-haired Ulala, a particularly scintillating tentacle scene, and some embarrassingly catchy electronic pop joined together like undulating Planeteers to create Space Channel 5. By your powers combined, indeed. With every “chu!” and subsequent “HEY!”, the quirky crew liberated groovin’ presidents and helpless civilians from the clutches of the terrifying Morolians and those who dared side with them.
In classic call-and-response fashion, enemies spewed out a string of nonsensical chants alongside “lyrics” that could only be described as lazy, leaving you as Ulala to repeat them back with the beat. Unless you had the memory of a goldfish, you could save the world. And I’m proud to say I -- wait, what? It wasn’t perfect, but I would have given my silver Space Michael onesie to work on Ulala’s Swingin’ Report Show. Admit it, you would have too, unless you don’t know the difference between Pudding and Padding. In that case, get off my stage.
U-1 played a magical Gitaroo, or as us normal folk would call it, a guitar. And it was good. Still is. Don’t hate. Gitaroo Man, the classic drag-the-note-via-analog-stick-to-pitch-bend musical adventure had it all, even some particularly horrid English voice acting.
From cutesy J-Pop to orchestral songs littered with hardcore guitar riffs, to some Day of the Dead-like tunes, it’s a cavalcade of songs meant to beat you into submission. Though genuinely nightmarish in difficulty, it’s still flyin’ to my heart after all these years. A rare find on the PlayStation 2, it saw subsequent release on the PSP for an affordable less-than-$20 steal.
PaRappa the Rapper/Um Jammer Lammy
I need to potty, or I’ll be real naughty. I’ll settle for talking about PaRappa the Rapper -- rappin’ dog, and Um Jammer Lammy -- wailin’ lamb (now immortalized on my right arm.) PaRappa, with all the street cred a talking dog could muster after falling in love with a sunflower and rapping about seafood cake, was pretty darn dope, y’all. Lammy adopted the same premise as PaRappa, but you wailed on a guitar rather than relying on your rapping chops to solve every single one of your problems.
Rodney Alan Greenblat lent his magical touch to the games, giving them a “paper-thin” look, as well as some truly bizarre characters that to this day I can’t forget. Tupac may have gone down in history, but lines like “In the rain or in the snow / I got the funky flow / But now, I really gotta go” deserve archival for future generations. PaRappa received a lackluster sequel (minus the bit about the burgers) and Major Minor’s Majestic March ranks as one of the worst games I’ve ever had the misfortune of playing. So stick to PaRappa or Lammy’s first endeavors. And that’s the bottom line, ‘cause Chop Chop Master Onion said so.
To some, this is one of the strangest music games ever made. To those same people, The Human Centipede is “scary” and the Fright Night remake induces nightmares. You know the type. With its overabundance of vector graphics and trippy music, it’s definitely an acquired taste. But one that goes down oh so good. Like eating at White Castle, without the crippling heartburn in the morning. As the vector rabbit Vibri, you traverse each level (a thin white line) riddled with obstacles.
If you’re a chicken-wuss, you can use any CD to create stages for Vibri. Go ahead, use Limp Bizkit. Vibri trucks on to "Rollin’." You’ll quickly learn that Vib Ribbon also means to scare the bejeezus out of you, especially if you play along to the song “Polaroid.” Lordy, lordy. I know I spent hours with Monster Rancher back in the day trying to get different monsters from my dad’s CD collection...so if you wasted all your time spinning anything from The Pixies to ‘70s Superstar Club Hits, you’ll feel right at home here. Unfortunately, Vib Ribbon never saw a North American release, so you’ll need to get crafty to procure a copy in this day and age.
Bust A Groove (Bust A Move)
Following in the vein of PaRappa the Rapper, Bust A Groove boasted a varied mix of tracks ranging from trance to disco and everything in between. You input a string of arrows on the PlayStation’s d-pad followed by one of the four face buttons, all in time with the music, of course. It stars a crazy cast of characters, including a grown woman with an infantilism fetish, your token zombie character, and even capoeira-dancing aliens named (you guessed it) Capoeira. Hey, I never said it won points for originality.
Each of the characters represent the mix of dance styles, so no matter who you pick you’re destined for busting some “stone-cold grooves." If you could manage to pull off Perfects for three or more turns, you’d get a Freeze. Dance perfectly, or reach a score higher than recommended for that stage? You’d get Fever Time, which showcased your character’s amazing dance moves in a solo show that almost always turned out dismally, unless you chose to play as gangsta rapper Strike. And he’s so much more street than Fiddy’ll ever be. Unfortunately, I stepped on my copy and cracked the disc. This is why I can’t have nice things.
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