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Guitar Hero III: Backstage Pass

For: Mobile

Cheerful but tuneless

Product: Guitar Hero III: Backstage Pass | Publisher: Hands-On Entertainment | Format: Mobile | Genre: Music/ Rhythm | Players: 1 | Format: J2ME | File size: 587KB | Reviewed on: N81 8GB other handsets | Version: Europe
Guitar Hero III: Backstage Pass Mobile, thumbnail 1
We've looked at our share of pocket sized Guitar Hero games here at Pocket Gamer, so we'll bypass the usual chat about the lack of the console controller - the one thing most gamers would consider essential to the enjoyment of this game. We've also waxed lyrical about how well, surprisingly, the game works without it, so, again, we won't waste too many words going back over that old ground.

In this respect, it's enough to say that Backstage Pass has learned from its predecessors and works extremely well within the severe confines of its platform. Where this latest Guitar Hero offering seems to justify itself isn't in the music, however, but in building the musician's career. This new angle adds a far more recognisable style of gameplay to the mix, and brings the franchise in line with other mobile titles while still offering a core element of virtual shredding.

Taking on the familiar roles of Axel or Judy, you begin life as a washed out wannabe living it down at 93 Slum Lane. Your job is to help them claw their way from five-stringed poverty to the heights of drug-abusing stardom (it doesn't make specific mention of drug use, you understand, but these are rock stars after all). Rehearsing in your ramshackle pad initially gets your guitar skills up to the very low standard required to play in a grief-hole of a rock club, which is where your ghost-written autobiography will begin.

Your first gig leads to a few easy bucks and, more importantly, advice from your landlord that a bit of leafleting might help bring in the crowds for the next show. More bodies equal more money, so you take to the streets to administer flyers. This involves shooting leaflets at certain types of passersby who are most likely to respond to the thrash metal advert. Giving them to old ladies with zimmer frames, for instance, doesn't help your credibility (which is another vital factor in a rock star's life, of course).

Back in the club, a successful leafleting campaign packs the crowds in, and it's back to thrashing the strings using the '1', '2' and '3' keys as the notes fly past. When at home, you continue to practise to build up your repertoire and further impress the audience, which leads on to busking mini-games, schmoozing with industry types and moving on to bigger and better gigs.

This career system really helps bring Backstage Pass to life. It stops the game being just about the music, and leads you through the turbulent life of a struggling musician. This is just as well, since the shrill, barely recognisable midi files that shoot knitting needles into your ears simply don't do the franchise justice. The songs don't appear to correlate particularly well to the rhythm-action gameplay, and the lack of any kind of volume control means you'll not be playing this game in public (at least, I hope not, in case I find myself sat behind you on the bus and wind up in jail for murder).

It was a wise move, adding some humanity to the Guitar Hero franchise on the platform that was least capable of supporting its gameplay style. The core rhythm-action now only constitutes about half of the game, with the rest suitably filled up by rehearsing, leafleting, busking and strategising your way to the big show. By only using three strings (more than adequate for this kind of music, right R&B fans?) the essential stage shows are very accessible, yet still sufficiently challenging; shored up by enough anticipation for the gigs that each song really feels to count toward your burgeoning career.

A word of warning to the gamers out there who aren't fans of the rock music genre, however. This game should be branded Rock Guitar Hero. Activision seems unable to grasp the concept that some great musicians have played the guitar without having long hair, ripped jeans, a drug habit and an affinity for tunelessly screaming at microphones. If clich├ęd, head banging, white bread guitar humping is your thing, Backstage Pass will undoubtedly whistle all your favourite songs - shrill electronica style.

For everyone else, there's a vicarious life to live that should provide more than enough entertainment so long as you can put up with the noise.
Guitar Hero III: Backstage Pass
Reviewer photo
Spanner Spencer | 15 October 2008
Excellent gameplay that shows the man behind the guitar hero, but still suffers from the inherent musical limitations of the mobile platform
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