The music craze has already taken consoles by storm, but it hasn't yet fully filtered down to handhelds where tune-driven games would be perfect for traveling gamers. Rock Revolution hopes to conquer the genre's (relative) stage fright this fall, taking a full virtual band on the road. We went hands-on with the Nintendo DS game last week during Konami Gamers' Night.
Rock Revolution promises a full Single Player Career mode, although it was locked in the demonstration we played. Instead, a Quick Play option let us jam to four songs: 'Blitzkrieg Bop', 'Detroit Rock City', 'We're Not Gonna Take It', and 'All the Small Things'. If you'd rather just hear the tunes than play them, a media player accessible from the main menu makes it possible to listen to any song. A total of 20 tracks are planned for the final game.
Four instruments – vocals, drums, bass, and guitar – can be played on each of the songs. Before selecting a tune, you're asked to choose from a slate of eight characters, each specialising in a particular instrument.
Ace, whose stylish looks give away his cool vocal stylings, lets you sing, whereas Phil's drumsticks hint to his skills as a drummer. Naturally, you're able to accumulate special costumes, accessories, and even new instruments as you progress through Career mode.
With a character selected and song queued up, the last thing to do is select from four venues: an eight-person garage, county fair with 200 capacity, diner rooftop that has standing room for 5,000, and a massive 15,000-person arena.
Using the stylus, you play instruments via gesture-based mini-games. Drumming, for instance, involves tapping out beats on a virtual drum set depicted on the touchscreen. Icons representing each of the drums scroll across the top of the screen, which of course tell you to hit the corresponding drum. Tapping out rhythm on a small set sounds like it would be easy, but it proved surprisingly challenging on medium difficulty. Fortunately, two levels of difficulty – beginner and expert – sandwich the medium setting.
Jamming on guitar, the gameplay shifts from tapping to sliding the stylus across the touchscreen. Directional arrows move past the display and playing requires sliding the stylus in the corresponding direction. When a downward left diagonal arrow pops up, for example, you make a quick slash in that direction. Arrows come in from four directions, so keeping up with all of them proves pretty challenging.
Bass plays similarly to guitar, although the key difference is that the arrows scroll along four strings. You must slide the stylus in the direction of the arrows as they pass along each of the strings. Interestingly enough, managing four strings on bass is easier than playing guitar. The arrows seemed to flow faster on guitar than on bass.
Completing the rock quartet of instruments is vocals, which take full advantage of the handheld's microphone. Sadly, it was nearly impossible to try out our chops singing 'Detroit Rock City' due to the uncomfortable level of noise in the room. No, really. Perhaps that was the point â€" make the room too loud so as to prevent untrained journalist voice from screeching out songs. Wise Konami.
Still, you can commiserate in the lack of musical talent thanks to local wireless multiplayer for up to four. Creating a band enables you to cooperatively play through songs, with each person taking a different instrument. Competitive battle modes, however, sound totally fun. Custom battles have every player competing with the same character and instrument, but even more challenging are ultimate battles in which characters and instruments are chosen at random.
Over the next few months, we anticipate hearing much more about Rock Revolution, including its track list and details about the mysterious single player Career mode. And from what we've seen so far we're certainly looking forward to it. Click 'Track It!' to stick with our updates.