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DS  header logo

Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades

For: DS

Rock out to songs of the '70s through to the '00s

Product: Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades | Developer: Vicarious Visions | Publisher: Activision Blizzard | Format: DS | Genre: Music/ Rhythm | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades DS, thumbnail 1

The success story that is the Guitar Hero franchise has been quite phenomenal. Despite everything being against the original game (like bands not wanting to hand over original recordings and the fact games requiring peripherals are, nine times out of ten, rubbish) the series has become an institution. Now the likes of Aerosmith and Metallica are falling over themselves to feature in new instalments (the big fat percentage of the game's profits they must be getting is presumably a contributing factors) and gamers are forking out as much cash for the new home console World Tour bundle (which has grown to support a singer, drummer and bassist) as they would for a brand new Xbox 360 console.

All of this considered, the introduction of the series onto DS would, you'd think, be a 'good thing'. And I'll admit to being very impressed when I first saw the peripheral Vicarious Visions had created in order to bring the game to DS. It was compact, fitted neatly onto the DS and only added £10 onto the price of a normal DS game.

However, as our review of the original Guitar Hero: On Tour points out, while in theory it's a great concept, in practice it's a little out of tune.

There are three particularly irksome points of taking Guitar Hero 'on tour' with you.

First, the guitar grip peripheral is prone to sliding out of the GBA slot it lives in, forcing you to reset the game. Second, having to strum the 'guitar' part of the touchscreen means your notes don't register if – while concentrating on the important top screen (or left screen, as the DS is held sideways to play) – your hand slides off-centre a bit.

Third, because your hand is locked into position by a strap, your four fingers are trapped pressing the button beneath them. There no sliding your hand up and down to hit chords, and that's tough on your pinkie finger. (Or it is on mine – it's possible yours is more muscular and better trained in doing what your brain tells it to do.)

None of these problems mean Guitar Hero: On Tour isn't worth playing. For reasons I'm about to get onto, it's a good game. It's probably also the best game that could have been made on the hardware in question. But bear in mind that whereas playing Guitar Hero at home with a full-sized plastic guitar nestled across your knee and The Police blaring out your TV speakers is undeniably brilliant, clutching your DS with clawed hand invariably isn't.

So some will argue that Guitar Hero should never have been miniaturised for a handheld console. But the more immediate question here is whether a sequel so soon after the original DS release is warranted. After all, it's only been four months since the last one.

True, Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades does introduce a little more gameplay than its predecessor. As indicated by the title, it includes tracks from assorted decades from the '70s to the '00s.

In Career mode – which adds a Bass variant to the Lead Guitar option – every new venue calls for the performance of five songs from a particular decade. Which order you tackle those songs in is up to you but since you have to do them all, stardom is still a path more linear than the journey of your average X Factor winner. 

Of great importance are the 28 new tunes Decades introduces, most of which are significantly 'rawkier' than the original On Tour's more pop-focused offerings. Whether that's a good thing or not really depends on your musical tastes, but there are some strong tunes here from the Smashing Pumpkins, Alien Ant Farm, Blondie, Queen and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Songs like The Darkness's 'I Believe in a Thing Called Love' will break your fingers in Hard mode.
Fortunately, one of the best part of Guitar Hero on the home consoles – going down a storm and getting the crowd clapping along to the song – feels just as moreish to achieve on DS.

Other core elements of the series are retained in On Tour Decades too. Such as Star Power, built up by stringing together score-multiplying correct notes. On the home consoles you tilted the guitar to activate it; on DS you shout something in the microphone. Nice in theory but like so many parts of On Tour, it just doesn't work as well. Leaning into the microphone isn't easy when your eyes are locked onto the notes streaming down the screen towards you.

Where On Tour Decades does excel is in multiplayer. The item-using guitar playing duels are a lot of fun against someone else. Yes, you both need to own the peripheral but, on the plus side, you can share songs between the two games if one owns On Tour and the other On Tour Decades.

Ultimately you can't shake the feeling that the Guitar Hero experience is best suited to the big screen. And since it's hard to imagine anyone playing On Tour in a public place, even with headphones, especially if you have to wear as stupid an expression of intense concentration as I do in order to play, the portability part of it isn't really a good enough reason for it to exist.

If it's just a skill-testing rhythm game you want, you're far better off with the specially-designed likes of Elite Beat Agents than this watered down effort. Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades is by no means without merit for those after the rock star experience – you'll find it able to deliver considerable enjoyment. But as a package it just doesn't rawk quite enough on DS to make it a must-have game.

Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades
Reviewer photo
Kath Brice | 18 November 2008
On Tour Decades brings better songs and a slightly more comprehensive Guitar Hero experience to Guitar Hero on DS. There are still issues with the comfort and practicalities of its guitar fret peripheral, but the most rousing songs are still a lot of fun to play
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