On its surface, Planet Moon Studios' Battle of the Bands offers an experience that is as unique among its peers as it is hard to imagine. The idea of taking popular songs and re-imagining them in genres they were never meant to played in is an appealing one. Who wouldn't want to hear Tag Team's "Whoomp! There It Is" with a Latin flavor, or Soundgarden's "Spoonman" performed by a marching band?
Throw in a musical combat element, involving guns and rocket launchers, and it starts to sound like a real winner. My early hands-on of the game were pretty positive. I wrote "it looks to be a fun, incredibly hilarious diversion from the popular peripheral-based titles," and "I'm pretty sure I'm liking it."
Now that I've had some "alone time" with the game, did it live up to my expectations, or do I cry myself to sleep at night because I can't get the hip-hop version of "Man of Constant Sorrow" out of my skull? Read on to find out.
Battle of the Bands (Wii)
Developed by Planet Moon Studios
Published by THQ
Released on April 21
Like Electronic Arts' Boogie, Battle of the Bands attempts to translate your rhythm into Wii remote-based actions. Set up in a similar manner to Guitar Hero or Rock Band, notes scroll up from the bottom of the screen, passing a certain point in time with the music. To hit a beat on the left or right side of the the screen, you make a striking motion to the left or right, respectively; to hit a beat in the middle of the screen (with an arrow pointing down), you'll flick your wrist downwards. Occasionally, a target icon will appear on the screen, which indicates that you must stab at the screen on the beat. Squiggly lines require you to shake the remote, either in a heavy or a light manner, depending on the thickness of the line.
For the most part, the Wii remote feels responsive and in time with what is happening on the screen. Most of the beats make sense, but sometimes confusingly jump between following different instruments; one moment you'll be shaking along with the vocal melody, the next you may be waggling to the bass line. It also seems that hitting two of the same notes in quick succession -- left then left, for example -- doesn't always register, or requires panther-like reflexes that I simply don't have. It's easy to place the blame on the Wii remote technology, but why a developer would choose to include a gameplay mechanic that appears to be inconsistent is questionable.
The goal of the game is to -- surprise! -- battle other bands. Each successive note hit will charge up one of three attacks (chosen prior to the battle), which you can switch between during battles by pressing the A button, or up and down on the directional pad. These attacks work in a similar way than those found in the "Boss Battles" in Guitar Hero III, mostly causing havoc on your opponents side of the screen. A huge issue I found with the attacks it that they're somewhat unbalanced, oftentimes giving one player a significantly unfair advantage. For example, the "Flip Out" attack will reverse left and right controls, which is annoying but can easily be adapted to. On the other hand, the "Smoke Screen" attack completely obscures the beat board, making it absolutely impossible to notes without a lot of luck or memorization. Certain attacks can be blocked by pressing B, but some of the more powerful ones -- like the aforementioned "Flip Out" and "Smoke Screen" -- are unavoidable.
But regardless of what style you choose, you're likely to become tired of the game's repetitive battles and gameplay. I found myself upset each time I unlocked another stage in my journey to face and eventually defeat the evil and mysterious Mr. Hong and his Violent Orchestra. And then when I finally faced and bested him, the game continued, and I realized I was only halfway through the game's tedious single-player experience. I'm not young like I used to be; my wrist can't take this kind of punishment, and my tolerance for repetitive gameplay has dropped significantly.
Score: 5 – (Average. Half of the time the game is fun, half of the time it isn't, for whatever reason. This game is absolutely average in every single way -- neither exceptional nor face-melting awful.)