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Mini-Review: Battle of the Bands

Battle of the Bands Rhythm/music games are all the rage today thanks to the likes of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, but you don't necessarily need an instrument controller to enjoy a music game.  THQ's Battle of the Bands for Nintendo Wii combines elements from Hero and Dance Dance Revolution and wraps them up in a unique gimmick that will give players a different perspective on familiar songs.  Ever heard Cypress Hill's "Insane in the Brain" performed by a college marching band?  How about "Brick House" from The Commodores interpreted with a country vibe?  What about Def Leppard with a hip-hop beat?  The result is (and this is meant as a compliment) a musical train wreck; you really should just pass on by, and yet you cannot look away.

Battle of the Bands The gameplay is simple enough.  The screen is split into music staffs.  Players must shake the Wii remote to the left, to the right, and downward in time to the beat of the music.  Directions are indicated through a DDR-type scroll of beats that move upwards on the music staff.  Each properly shaken beat awards points.  Chain enough correct beats together to launch attacks at the opponent's staff.  These attacks damage the opponent's ability to properly shake to the beat.  Tapping the B button raises a temporary shield over one's own staff to deflect incoming attacks.  Score more points than the opponent by the end of the song to win the battle.  An in-game tutorial easily explains the concept.

Wrapped up around the core gameplay concept are the different musical groups and how they perform the featured songs.  Players choose to play as a band skilled in either rock, country, Latin, hip-hop, or marching band talents.  The bands each have their own otherworldly twist, such as the rock band that sold their souls to the devil in exchange for musical ability or the marching band descended from ancient gods.  Songs flip between featured styles during battles, causing the likes of "Mama Said Knock You Out" to seamlessly leap from a hip-hop motif to big brassy marching band madness.  Most of the fun in Battle of the Bands comes from hearing the familiar collection of music turned around into different musical genres.  Out of the thirty songs in the game I find that there are only two present that I like, and while it's something of a slog to push through the unfamiliar tunes, I found that I tolerated the music I didn't like because it was performed in a different style than what is usually heard.  It's all about the novelty.  I'm not a fan of The Ramones, but I can appreciate "Blitzkrieg Bop" performed as a country riot.

Battle of the Bands So, in the end, comes the important question: is Battle of the Bands fun?  Sure, but once I'd explored the different styles of each song, I found the mixed genre gimmick growing a little stale.  There's a curiosity factor at work here, and once that curiosity has been satisfied there isn't much of a need to return to the action.  Like most music games, Battle is either helped or hampered by how much a player enjoys the soundtrack.  A Versus mode adds extra life to the concept, but I just can't see this game enjoying as much repeat play as the competition.  It's certainly worth at least rental.  You know you cannot resist a Latin spin on "Whoomp!  (There It Is)".