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rhythm games

Fallout Band 4 photo
Fallout Band 4

Look like a wasteland warrior when Fallout 4 invades Rock Band 4

A duet of cuatros
Nov 24
// Brett Makedonski
If you fancy yourself a living room faux-musician, this is probably the closest you'll ever get to looking like a Fall Out Boy. Harmonix has collaborated with Bethesda to add free Fallout 4 Vault-111 jumpsuits to the Ro...
Guitar Hero TV photo
Guitar Hero TV

Guitar Hero TV is getting 34 new songs this week

Including 'Jerry Was a Race Car Driver'
Nov 24
// Chris Carter
At this point, Guitar Hero Live's GHTV function will have 300 songs to choose from this weekend, with 34 new tracks dropping tomorrow. The full list is below, but the obvious highlights include Judas Priest, Tenacious D, Huey...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

There's a ton of stuff coming to Rock Band 4 in December, including Rock Band 3

Good stuff for the hardcore community
Nov 19
// Brett Makedonski
Rock Band 4 launched in a state that felt kind of bare bones. Several features were cut from past games in favor of just getting you to simulate playing music in your living room again. A lot of that's getting added afte...
Guitar Hero photo
Guitar Hero

Guitar Hero Live adds another live rock concert this week

Nov 18
// Chris Carter
One of the coolest things about Guitar Hero Live's GHTV element is that Activision, in the near future at least, is keen on supporting it with constant new content. That includes 70 new songs by the end of the year, and updat...

GHTV photo

Guitar Hero TV adds Iggy Pop and White Stripes this week

And not much else
Nov 11
// Chris Carter
I'm surprised at how much I'm still playing Guitar Hero Live. It's really easy for me to boot up the TV function and just play random songs, which cycle in new tracks on a constant basis. I have over a hundred "free plays" an...
Guitar Hero Live photo
Guitar Hero Live

Guitar Hero Live is adding 70 new songs to GHTV by the end of the year

Every song is free to play this weekend
Nov 04
// Chris Carter
Guitar Hero Live was a pleasant surprise. After Activision milked that cow for so long, I didn't think it could introduce one of the freshest rhythm games in years, but it did. But this is just the start for Guitar Hero ...
PlayStation 4 exclusive photo
PlayStation 4 exclusive

PlayStation 4 enabling DJs with Avicii music rhythm game Vector

This is the world we live in now
Oct 27
// Steven Hansen
In 2015, 1 out of 3 humans are DJs. This has led to global gridlock as necessary goods and services plummet under insistence that, "you should come see my set." The population rate is in decline, too, as more men become DJs;...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Rock Band 3 tracks should be playable in Rock Band 4 by end of year

The export fee is $15
Oct 21
// Brett Makedonski
People who played Rock Band 3 can expect their Rock Band 4 library to grow significantly in the coming months. Since Rock Band 4's October 6 launch, Harmonix has been at work trying to bring old content onto the new...

Review: Guitar Hero Live

Oct 20 // Chris Carter
Guitar Hero Live (PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: FreeStyleGamesPublisher: ActivisionMSRP: $99.99 (Game + guitar), $149.99 (Game + two guitars)Released: October 23, 2015 The first thing you'll notice about Guitar Hero Live is that the controller itself has been reworked. Now, instead of the typical color-coded five button setup, you'll find two rows of three buttons -- one row is white, and the other, black. I didn't realize this until later on, but it's actually easier for newcomers to pick up since you don't have to use your pinky finger at all, but tougher for veterans who are used to a 10-year institution of the same old setup. Honestly, I loved having to relearn everything I knew. While I was rocking it out to expert-level songs in Rock Band 4 immediately after years of retirement, it took me multiple days to get a basic grasp on Guitar Hero Live. It recreated that unique feeling of picking up a plastic guitar for the first time. It also helps that Live has five difficulty levels (basic, casual, regular, advanced, and expert), that all ramp up perfectly depending on your skillset. It's especially important to note that the former settings only require you to use one row of buttons, which will help you slowly acclimate to the new setup. As time went on and I started jacking up the difficulty, the game gets crazy tough. There's a major focus on one-finger vertical cords, as well as split cords with multiple combinations, and open strumming cues with no buttons. It's far from a realistic guitar simulator, but I really dug the increased emphasis on chords and fancy finger-work. It may feel like a step down at first glance, but there's a lot of depth found in these six buttons. The chief reason why FreeStyleGames was able to seemingly perfect this aspect of the game is because Live is guitar-centric again. Yep, there's no drums, no keyboard, no "bass" ensemble -- both players play lead guitar. There is the option to hook up a USB microphone to sing vocals, but they are absolutely ancillary to the experience, and I wouldn't recommend picking up the game for singing in the slightest. Technically, vocals add in support for the third player, but Live is definitely focused on the same one or two-person jam session that the original brought to the table in 2005. Again, I'm totally okay with this, as the series started to get stale when it tried to be too much like Rock Band. [embed]315533:60780:0[/embed] There's also a fundamental shift with the story mode, which no longer displays lifeless uncanny valley avatars strumming along to the song. Instead, the developers have recorded live footage with real bands playing each song with a live crowd, and strapped a camera to the lead guitarist to simulate a first-person view. Yes, it's FMV, but the end result is done so well that it blows past the Mad Dog McCrees of old. For each set (three songs), your character will start backstage. Here you'll get a bit of setup, perhaps some light drama, a quick chat with a stagehand, and on occasion, a visit from a makeup artist. It helps set the scene and gives you the basic gist of what it feels like to walk out onto a stage in front of thousands of people. As the song progresses, the camera will dip and dive across the stage with your character. Now here's the neat part -- depending on how well you play, the FMV will shift in a surrealist fashion to suit the situation. For instance, playing well will net you a cheering crowd and lots of smiles from your fellow bandmates. Playing poorly will shift the FMV into a negative state, with shaking heads and plenty of boos from the audience. It's such a little thing, but the band itself will start giving you a hard time vocally as well, which is jarring and motivating at the same time. I'm not going to act like this system elicits any kind of actual emotional response, but it's very cool to watch and it's seamlessly done. I'm genuinely surprised they went through the effort of essentially recording two entire concerts for each set of songs. The included setlist itself is rather diverse, consisting of classic rock songs from Queen, The Who, and The Rolling Stones, alongside of more modern groups like Green Day and Fall Out Boy, all the way up to Skrillex ("Bangarang" works better than you'd think) and a recent Eminem song ("Berzerk"). It has something for everyone, with a good spread of indie hits, folk music, and top 100 joints. While the actual story mode is only playable solo, there is a freeplay mode with all 42 on-disc tracks that you can enjoy with a partner, which also features the FMV setup. So that's the first half of Guitar Hero. Next up is the other half: Guitar Hero TV (GHTV). As you may have heard, this concept is going to be rather controversial in nature, as it features microtransactions, and a "stream-centric" DLC model where you can't actually buy songs, but play them on-demand. I fully expected to hate it based on concept alone, but to my surprise, it's probably one of my favorite modes in any rhythm game to date. Let me explain a bit -- GHTV is a multi-faceted affair. At its core is the "channel" system, which currently hosts two playlists. These shift every half hour with new tracks and genres, and quite literally follow the traditional television model, where everyone is playing the exact same thing at the same time, complete with leaderboards. In other words, if you boot it up, you may be jumping in mid-song into a competition. This aspect of Live is devoid of microtransactions. You can play both channels for free without paying Tokens (more on that later) as long as you want. And that's just what I did for days on end. During one of my testing sessions, I played the channel system for three hours straight, earning Tokens for on-demand plays along the way. Since this system is curated, I stepped out of my comfort zone, and discovered new bands, or played songs that I wouldn't normally play from bands I already knew about. It broke the typical rhythm rut where I'd only play my favorite tracks, and it's a really cool feeling. GHTV also has the added benefit of hosting music videos for every single available song. As someone who grew up with MTV, it was a joy to watch them all over again, especially classics like Tenacious D's "Tribute." It's also a lot more fun to watch music videos as a spectator compared to the aforementioned uncanny avatars. Since the channels are going to be constantly updated over time, I'm excited to see what the future holds.  The other side of GHTV is on-demand and features microtransactions. Here's how it works: for each track played, you'll earn Tokens. If you do poorly, you'll earn roughly 100-130 Tokens on average. If you do well, you'll net close to 200. You can also earn daily rewards for logging into the game and bonuses for ranking up. One on-demand play is about 600 Tokens, and there's also the option to buy cosmetic bits like new note highways and player cards. Finally, there's a "Party Pass" for $5.99 that grants you access to the entire TV catalog (hundreds of songs) for 24 hours. Here's the good news -- you can basically ignore all of this nonsense if you play the channels. Personally, I put in over 20 hours into GHTV and haven't felt compelled to spend a cent, with 70 spare freeplay sessions banked. You might not feel the same if you hate the principle of not owning content, but as a regular subscriber to streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, it's not a difficult concept to grasp. While GHTV has the potential to turn a lot of people off, I would be satisfied just playing channels for the immediate future. Both the channels and on-demand support two players. Guitar Hero Live completely took me be surprise. I love the new controller design, the FMV portions work far better than they should, and Guitar Hero TV hooked me with its channel concept. Going forward, I'm hoping that the model further reinvents itself by introducing the world to new music. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher, specifically, the dual guitar package.]
Guitar Hero Live photo
An axe to grind
As I've said many times in the past, I was a Guitar Hero man all the way up until I first laid eyes on that beautiful keyboard for Rock Band 3. The Hero series was stale, iterating annually (sometimes multiple times...

Guitar Hero Live photo
Guitar Hero Live

You will know (and love) most of Guitar Hero Live's newest songs

Good god! That's CM Punk's music!
Oct 09
// Brett Makedonski
You know what they say about saving the best for last. Well, I guess they just say to do it. It's a good idea. Then everyone's like "Wow, we doubted you, but some real nice stuff happened at the end." That's Guitar Hero Live'...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Here's how to turn off Rock Band 4's Freestyle guitar solos

Viva la scripted solos!
Oct 08
// Brett Makedonski
Rock Band 4, largely the Rock Band that you already know and maybe love, has one big change from previous games. That is the Freestyle guitar solo. Its intent is to break away from the traditional and sometimes very toug...
Guitar Hero Live photo
Guitar Hero Live

Guitar Hero Live developers muse on the toughest songs in the game

Hangar 18 is on there
Oct 08
// Chris Carter
With Guitar Hero Live only a few weeks away, developer Freestyle Games is sharing its opinions on the most difficult songs in the game, to give players a heads-up of sorts. Said list includes "Hangar 18" (Megadeth), "Cry...
Guitar Hero Live photo
Guitar Hero Live

James Franco and Lenny Kravitz touch butts in Guitar Hero Live trailer

The game launches October 20
Oct 06
// Chris Carter
Activision is pretty good at getting celebrities to do comical commercials, and their latest bit involves James Franco and Lenny Kravitz promoting Guitar Hero Live. It showcases the live crowd aspect, which can boo you if you're doing terrible. Apparently it's terrifying. I had a chance to see Lenny Kravitz live recently, and he's still got it. Also, I got to high-five him, so he's totally cool.
Guitar Hero Live photo
Guitar Hero Live

Guitar Hero Live is approaching DLC in a fairly controversial way

Streaming instead of ownership
Oct 05
// Chris Carter
FreeStyleGames, the developer of Guitar Hero Live, has posted its plans for the Guitar Hero TV (GHTV) portion of the game, and it's intriguing to say the least. Basically, instead of buying songs piecemeal for $2 or so, you'r...

Review: Rock Band 4

Oct 05 // Chris Carter
Rock Band 4 (PS4, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: HarmonixPublisher: Harmonix (with distribution by Mad Catz)Released: October 6, 2015MSRP: $59.99 (game), $129.99 (guitar bundle), $249.99 (Band-in-a-Box) So let's get right into it. The setlist (seen here) is going to be a point of contention for many. Point blank, I'm not really a fan of most of it, for multiple reasons. Firstly, U2 (the Guy Fieri of music) was added last-minute, and features not one but two songs featured in career mode. This completely obliterated the "random" feature for one of the groups I played with, as they hilariously refused to play U2 on the principle that they "might" come up. Then you have the issue of era disparity due to a disjointed design. Often times you'll find similar types of music grouped together, but generally speaking, Rock Band 4 is all over the place. For instance, there's one Elvis song ("Suspicious Minds," which I really dig), but then, there's nothing else even close to that age or style of music. You also have the issue of showcasing a heavy helping of B-hits from major artists, like "Kick it Out" from Heart or "Prayer" from Disturbed. Of course, music is subjective, but my major issue is the lack of any real epic rock tracks (and I don't mean "epic" in the bad meme sense) on offer here, which every rhythm game tends to provide. I mean, "That Smell" from Lynyrd Skynyrd? You can't help but feel like the rights to a lot of big-ticket songs weren't on the table, some of which instead went to Activision's Guitar Hero Live. But I think this weaker setlist is kind of what Harmonix is going for. They're banking on the fact that you already own a ton of DLC, or are willing to shell out for it. That's going to be a point of contention for many people, who may have started out in the Rock Band ecosystem on Xbox, but like most of this generation, have since switched to PS4 exclusively. I'm kind of torn on where I stand personally, because while I do see Rock Band as a "platform," I wish the included setlist were as strong as it has been in the past. Just to clarify with Harmonix as of this week, I double-checked on the DLC roadmap beyond the singles in the store now (of which there are hundreds of piecemeal tracks). Track packs (read: those discs of songs you bought) are being worked on currently, and aren't up for launch. Additionally, title exports (Rock Band 1 and 2 songs mostly) are not available yet, and have no time frame at the moment. Finally, Harmonix is "looking into" exporting Rock Band 3 but nothing is finalized. None of this affects this review as it's all theoretical, but it's good to know. As disappointed as I am with the base setlist, the game, as always, is sound. The common theme here with Rock Band 4 is "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," which is great for those of you who just want a current-gen Rock Band, and bad if you wanted something revolutionary. While the voting system (which allows players to select tracks, or vague categories such as eras and genres in a democratic fashion) is very cool, the career mode, despite promises of a major shakeup with the choice system, is largely the same. [embed]312826:60607:0[/embed] While there are choices such as picking between selling out and making more money in the short term or going on the road and garnering more long-term fans, they all feel very gamey in the end ("do you want fans or money?"). I really like the little story blurbs that pop up along the way that provide updates for the narrative such as "your van that you bought for next to nothing lost a door," but they really are more fluff than substance. Plus, the concept of playing tons of gigs with set songs (and some open-ended lists) for cash to buy new accessories never appealed to me -- when combined with the so-so story and the fact that every song is unlocked from the get-go, it doesn't feel like a gametype worth the effort. As a result, most of my time was spent with the quick tour and freeplay modes, which are still a lot of fun with a group. It's as simple as syncing the instruments (which is incredibly easy to do now) and pressing start, then you're ready to rock. The aforementioned voting system is a ton of fun, as it accepts every band member's choices, then triggers a slot machine-like animation that randomly picks one. It's fair, and it's a nice break from manually choosing songs. In terms of the adjustments to the instruments themselves, I also have mixed feelings. Everything has been marginally upgraded (both physically and in-game), but I'm still reeling from the complete lack of keyboard and Pro Guitar support. Harmonix certainly has a strong argument in that most players simply did not use these features last time around, but I can't help but feel like Rock Band 4 has been downgraded as a result. While I never really preferred the Rock Band style guitars (X-plorer for life), the build is noticeably more sturdy, which also applies for the new drum kit and microphone. The new gameplay feature with the guitar is the addition of freestyle sections, which no longer bound players to the rigors of tough solo portions. For casual players, this change is pretty great, and allows anyone to rock out in a fashion that more accurately portrays the spirit of the franchise. In essence, during your solo spots, you'll see new markers for blue and orange freestyle notations in the track. You'll simply strum to the beat, with the blue portion notating the top frets and the orange noting the bottom, and that's basically it. Sometimes you'll have to strum once and hold, for others, you'll have to shift rapidly to different frets. You won't lose any momentum here if you screw up, and every fret will cue a different sound, so you can come up with your own concoctions. The best part is this is wholly optional, so if you want to shred "Through the Fire and Flames" on expert, you can. Also, every song supports a full-time freestyle solo through a separate menu option. The drums have remained mostly the same, outside of Dynamic Drum Fills, and, as an exception to the lack of Pro instruments, Pro Drums (if you buy the Mad Catz Rock Band 4 Cymbal Expansion Kit of course). The former feature allows you to deploy Overdrive (Star Power) during pre-determined sections -- it's a minor change, and fortunately, like most of the new stuff, you can also turn this off. If you rock the mic, you'll have a few other marginal improvements as well. Now there's Freestyle Vocals, which allows people to improvise a bit. As long as you still sing on key, you'll be able to score points. It makes things a little more fun for singers as they don't have to follow as rigid of a pattern. Again, every instrument has been improved on paper, but not in a way that completely eclipses a lot of the advancements made with the last iteration. The physical element of bringing over instruments is also a bit strained, partially outside of Harmonix's purview. Firstly, you'll have to follow their compatibility chart here to see if your device will even work with the new game. Additionally, due to the shift in technology from the 360 to the Xbox One, you'll need a $20 adapter to even use your old instruments that do work. When you add in that nothing works cross-console family, things get even more tricky, as it'll cost you $250 to grab a new guitar, drum kit, and a mic -- and if you want to get a second guitar, it gets even pricier.  Rock Band 4 is a bit of a conundrum. On one hand, it's not only a hassle to switch generations due to the fact that so many elements don't work with the new one, but additionally -- Rock Band 3 is still a thing, supports all of your DLC, and has more features. On the other, there's nothing inherently wrong with this iteration, and for those of you who missed out in the past or have broken 360s or PS3s, you'll still be able to rock out into the night with friends and have a whole lot of fun. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. The Band-in-a-Box bundle with a guitar, drum kit, and mic was assessed for this review. DLC or pre-order content of any kind was not provided, and was purchased by the reviewer.]
Rock Band 4 photo
Back in plastic
[Disclosure: Nick Chester, who is currently employed at Harmonix, previously worked at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the preview. I personally didn't work with Chester ...

Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Re-downloading your Rock Band DLC is a giant pain in the ass on Xbox One

Hope you like spreadsheets
Oct 02
// Brett Makedonski
In preparation for Rock Band 4's release next week, I figured it's about time to start downloading the songs I bought on Xbox 360 for use on my Xbox One. There's no doubt in my mind that if I have friends over to play and all...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Rock Band 4 releases next week, last chance to stock up on cheap DLC

It doubles in price on October 6
Oct 02
// Brett Makedonski
It may seem counter-intuitive, but this is a rare example of a time when you might want to purchase downloadable content before a game comes out. I know, I know -- we usually rally against that hard, but bear with us just thi...

Guitar Hero Live left me afraid to ever try playing live music

Oct 02 // Laura Kate Dale
On a gameplay level, Guitar Hero Live feels pretty new. Gone is the old five-button single row layout, replaced with two rows of three buttons placed next to each other. On screen you've got three note tracks scrolling, which will either show a white pick pointing down or a black pick pointing up to denote if you should play that note on the top or bottom row. It's a switch up that slightly more closely resembles guitar fingerings, and it feels like a new, manageable challenge to learn. However, what had a far bigger impact on my experience with GH Live at EGX was the impressive integration of full motion video, which is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to living out your teenage rock god fantasies. Firstly, my fears about modern implementations of full motion video were instantly allayed when actually playing the game. I can logically tell which camera pans are likely being used to mask transitions between videos as your performance rises and falls, but try as I might I could not actually see the seams. We seem to have reached a point where smooth transitions in full motion video gameplay are totally possible, and that's really reassuring to see. When I was doing well at Guitar Hero Live, I felt like a guitar shredding legend. The crowd went wild, the pit jumped, the crowd fought to lock eyes with me and everything felt amazing. It's amazing how much difference the switch from computer animated crowds to real human faces can make, but seeing actual people respond well to your performance felt awesome. We have not crossed the uncanny valley, and real human faces in video games have a special power to elicit an emotion. The scary thing about GH Live? It can invoke powerful negative emotions too. Toward the end of my time with the demo, I decided to see how far I could push the limits of the game. I slowly performed worse and worse as the song went on, and my god it got uncomfortable. First the audience began to look mildly confused. Then, they looked upset, personally let down by me. I glance at the bassist and he's trying to ask what's going wrong. I do worse. The audience grows upset, confused and angry. I glance at the drummer and she's freaking out. Mascara is running down her face as she mouths obscenities at me. The singer motions to have the stage hands pull me off stage. At this point, I quit the track I was playing. I felt terrible. My failure felt real. The anxiety related to letting down fans, the disappointment and the anger resting on my shoulders. I felt it all. My time playing Guitar Hero Live at EGX convinced me primarily of two things. If you're doing well, this game is going to be awesome. If you screw up, you are going to be made to suffer for your sins on the guitar. I think that's pretty damn exciting.
Guitar Hero Live photo
I felt like a badass for about 5 seconds
Back in my mid-teens I played drums in a hastily thrown together rock band. We mainly played pretty bad covers of other people's songs, occasionally writing our own tracks that went on far too long and were excessively simpli...

Plastic video game photo
Plastic video game

We are entering a new age of video game plastic this month

Toys to life + rhythm games = no space
Sep 30
// Chris Carter
This month, a ton of plastic shit showed up at my doorstop. Not that I'm complaining, I love this job, but man does it take up a lot of physical space! To kick things off I've been playing Rock Band 4 for roughly a week ...

Review: Laserlife

Sep 29 // Ben Davis
Laserlife (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: Choice ProvisionsPublisher: Choice ProvisionsReleased: September 22, 2015 (PC, PS4), TBA (Xbox One)MSRP: $14.99 Laserlife tells the story of an astronaut who died out in space, whose body drifts aimlessly along with the wreckage of a space ship. The body is discovered by "future intelligences who have no concept of humankind" as they delve into the astronaut's subconscious to extract memories in an attempt to learn of the skeleton's history and how this human ended up dead in outer space. Players control the future extraterrestrial entity in the form of two lasers. Each laser is controlled separately with the analog sticks, and they can both reach any part of the screen. Movement is very fluid and the lasers feel great to control as they spin and dance effortlessly around the screen. Each level consists of four stages. During the first stage, Memory Molecule Collection, players must move into position and press the trigger buttons at the right moment to collect memory molecules. Later levels introduce molecules which must be held in position as well as ones which must be moved to a new position. An insufficient amount of molecules collected during the first stage will reset the level, but this was never a problem for me while playing on normal difficulty. [embed]313018:60553:0[/embed] The second stage, Memory Harmonization, involves moving into position in order to hit targets. The hit boxes for the targets seem to be smaller than they are for memory molecules, so movements need to be slightly more precise, although the targets turn green once the lasers are in the correct position. These were the most difficult stages for me personally, even though they just involve moving around without having to time button presses. The final two stages are the easiest. During the Warp Phase, players must avoid colliding with red barriers, or mental blocks, by moving towards the openings. Finally, the Memory Materialization stage finishes out the level with the player moving the analog sticks as quickly as possible until the bar at the top of the screen has depleted. Once all of this has been completed, the memory will be fully extracted and appear as a physical manifestation of a significant object from the astronaut's life. If players find that the game is too challenging, or too easy, there are a few difficulty settings to choose from which will increase or decrease the amount of obstacles to deal with. There are also leaderboards to browse, with separate leaderboards for each difficulty, if that's something that interests you. Music is obviously a huge part of any rhythm game, and the soundtrack could easily make or break the game. Laserlife's soundtrack is very chill and atmospheric, which fits perfectly with the outer space setting. It's best to play this game with headphones in order to really focus on the music. I felt the soundtrack could have been a bit more varied at times, however, since all of the songs are very spacey and sometimes started to sound a bit similar after a while. Maybe they could have had some tracks that fit more with the theme of some of the memories, like a lullaby for the childhood memories, or even mixed in more spoken parts. One of my favorite tracks was used towards the end of the game, which had mission control voices being played over the music. I felt that was an idea they could have experimented with a bit more, because it worked really well for that one level. Unlike the Bit.Trip games, the sound effects from collecting memories and hitting targets don't really add much to the music itself, which was slightly disappointing. Obstacles are arranged so that they match up to the music of course, but interacting with them merely makes a dull sound which is often barely audible against the soundtrack. Having more robust sound effects might have helped make the soundtrack pop a bit more, and it would also be easier for the player to tell when they missed something. Laserlife has a lot of big ideas and an interesting premise. I love the concept of extraterrestrial life coming into contact with a human skeleton adrift in space, and trying to learn something about the strange creature's origins. The grand themes of human existence and the persistence of memory are ideas that I would like to see more games try to tackle. In this case, however, I found the overall experience to be a little underwhelming. It's fun for a short rhythm game, but with only 12 levels, it felt like Laserlife never really got a chance to fully explore the broad topics it brought to the table. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
Laserlife review photo
Drifting through space
Choice Provisions is best known for the excellent rhythm-based series, Bit.Trip, a saga spanning six games (and one spin-off) which abstractly dealt with themes about a man's journey through life. The studio has been toying w...

Review: Persona 4: Dancing All Night

Sep 29 // Kyle MacGregor
Persona 4: Dancing All Night (PS Vita)Developer: Atlus Publisher: AtlusReleased: September 29, 2015MSRP: $49.99 Taking place shortly after the events of Persona 4, Dancing All Night opens with Rise Kujikawa and a couple members of the gang in a dance studio. The former idol is mounting a comeback and has enlisted her friends as backup dancers to perform at a large music festival. Of course, things quickly go awry. A cursed Internet video has droves of people falling into comas, and to top it all off, members of Kanamin Kitchen, the pop group headed by Rise's frenemy Kanami Mashita, have gone missing. We soon find out the women have been transported to an alternate dimension called the Midnight Stage, where a mysterious voice and hordes of Shadows hold them hostage. Kanamin Kitchen's captors prey on idols' identity crises and try to make them fall in line with the image of what people think believe are, or want them to be, rather than wage any sort of painful personal struggle. The Investigation Team naturally comes to the rescue, except in this world they can't use their Personas to fight. The only way to beat back the Shadows and save Rise and Kanami's friends is to dance. It's a contrived plot device to shoehorn in rhythmic gameplay based on Sega's Hatsune Miku: Project Diva series, but honestly, who cares when the end result is a damn good time?  [embed]311909:60472:0[/embed] The mechanics at work here are nothing revolutionary. Notes appear in the center of a circle and fly outward toward six zones on circle's perimeter in formations based on music. Players are tasked with keeping the beat, the success or failure of which will determine things like high scores, whether new levels are unlocked, and earn in-game currency for purchasing items and costumes. Dancing All Night functions perfectly, and its three main difficulty settings all feel appropriately challenging. Regardless of which you choose, a poor performance will result in a quick hook, though a mediocre one may allow you to complete a level without passing. This can be a powerful motivator, and definitely kept me coming back to some of the tougher stages. On top of the standard fare, there's also an even harder (hidden) difficulty setting awaiting dedicated players. So good luck with that! Aside from the joy of watching familiar faces like Teddie and Chie cavort around in ridiculous outfits, what makes Dancing All Night a blast is the music itself. One of my favorite aspects of the Persona series is composer Shoji Meguro's handiwork, which is obviously thrust into the spotlight this time around. After completing both the story and free dance modes (plus redeeming some downloadable content) I've unlocked 36 songs, spanning everything from original Persona 4 tracks to spin-off theme songs and even a live performance. However, while that may conceptually seem like a decent-sized selection, it doesn't always feel that way. Half of the soundtrack is padded out with remixes that may or may not resonate with players. While I absolutely loved many of them, there are others I will seldom play again. I found it difficult at times to appreciate versions of songs I've adored for years, only to have some DJ somewhere strip the track of nearly all its personality and transform it into something else entirely. Dancing All Night's uneven score wasn't the only facet of the experience that wasn't as compelling as it could have been. The story is somewhat plodding at times and suffers from repetition, following multiple groups that tread similar ground for most of the game. While there are some pensive themes at work, endearing new characters, and a dramatic finale once the narrative threads begin to converge, the plot doesn't quite live up to its source material -- which is probably expected, given how phenomenal that is. This fusion of visual novel of rhythm game isn't exactly perfect, but speaking as someone who loves Persona (and Shoji Meguro's work in particular), I really enjoyed my time with this one. It might be pure fan service, but sometimes maybe that's enough. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. Several DLC tracks were also provided by the publisher. ]
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Your prize cow
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[embed]311207:60413:0[/embed] Still, that familiarity (with the gameplay presentation, anyway) smacked me in the face and ears when I demoed Miracle Girls Festival. Button prompts flying from every which direction confused until they didn't anymore. Eventually there's a rhythm (ha!) you fall into. At least I felt connected to the music through my interaction. But, the honeymoon was short as Miracle Girls Festival ranked me as "standard" after all three songs I played. Cold. Not as chilly as all the times it flashed "worst" at me, but frigid nonetheless. The tracks were brief (probably two minutes, tops) so the onslaught of insults didn't stretch too long. Slightly ironic that Miracle Girls Festival repeatedly called me standard when it's the one cobbled together on the frames of other works. In doing so, it's completely predictable. Not that the fact will bother Project Diva fans, but it is. I can name-call too, Miracle Girls Festival.
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Freestyle solos are way too much fun
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