When Activision first announced a Guitar Hero game for the DS I think we were all suspicious. Suspicious of how things would work. Sure, it's the same basic idea as the console counterparts. You've got the note highway and the colored buttons that need to be pressed. But the major change was the means of hitting notes. Instead of a strum bar you get a pick stylus and a picture of guitar on the touch screen. So does it work just as well? Let's take a look.
As far as the strumming goes, I think turning the DS sideways and using the touch screen was the right idea. It keeps things simple. Notes on the left screen, strumming on the right one. Simple, right? It also allows you to hold the DS relatively comfortably. I say relatively because there are some problems, but I'll get to that later. Simplicity isn't the only thing this setup has going for it because the touch screen works near flawlessly. It allows you to strum in your own style. On a guitar controller you have to push the strum bar far enough to trigger the switch right? This means you're always strumming the exact same way every note. Push to trigger, release, push to trigger, release, and so on. The touch screen is sensitive enough that you can move your stylus a very little distant if you choose to, or you can slide it the entire width of the screen for a note. It's up to you. This makes hitting notes in quick succession an easy task. It also make double strumming a breeze. I often find myself hitting strings of double strum notes on the DS that I would rarely do on a guitar controller.
Now onto the guitar grip. This is where I think the biggest improvement could be made. As far as a replacement for a guitar neck goes, it works, kinda. The buttons work fine and are just as accurate as the guitar controllers that we're all used to. But the grip itself, yikes. I understand that Activision was aiming for the most universal device they could make. Not only does it have to work with kids as well as adults, but it also has to work with both generations of DS. They accomplished this by putting a strap on the grip so that it will fit on any hand, and giving the consumer an adapter to make the device work with the original DS. As for the name though, the "Guitar Grip," I think they could have made something a little more, grippy. Even with the strap I often found my hand slipping into awkward positions. Either too close to the buttons so that I had to scrunch my fingers, or too far away so that I had trouble hitting them. I remedied this problem by setting the DS in my lap as I played. It tended to help prevent movement as well as keeping the handled more stable. After I got the slippage issue figured out I had another problem. A painful problem. It seems the grip keeps my hand in such a strange position that I can only play 3 or 4 songs before I must rest. Maybe it won't be such a problem for people with smaller hands, but everything seems a little cramped to me.
In the gameplay section, everything checks out. Anyone who's played a Guitar Hero game before will find it familiar and most likely jump right in. Besides the awkward feel and different means of strumming, it feels the same. The main differences are that you no longer tilt the guitar for star power, you now yell into the mic or hit a face button, and you've only got 4 buttons now instead of the usual 5. However, don't think that just because there's only 4 buttons that the game will now be a cakewalk. Activision kept some of the challenge of the console translations. It is easier than the console versions, but it's also aimed at a broader audience so you can understand why they wouldn't make it as hard as GH3.
You'll find everything that you'd find in a console Guitar Hero game. You've got your career mode to unlock more songs and earn money for more guitars and clothes. You've also got quickplay for when you just want to play something. There's also a battle mode that's similar to the one that was introduced in Guitar Hero 3. Not only can the battle mode be played against a friend via wi-fi, but you can also play against a computer in Guitar Duel mode. It's a nice addition but you'll most likely only play duel mode against real opponents. It's just not the same against a computer player. There's 25+ songs in the game, ranging from OK Go and Blink 182 to Ozzy Osbourne and Twisted Sister, as well as 5 different venues. You can also purchase 2 extra costumes for each of the 6 characters as well as a handful of new guitars and an extra paintjob for each. Pretty much everything you'd find in a full size Guitar Hero game.
All in all, Guitar Hero On Tour is an excellent handheld port of one of the most fun console games ever. If you can get past the comfort issues and new control style, you'll find the same old game that you're used to, and you'll enjoy it.
For those of you that need numbers with your review: 4/5