Saturday, 22 August 2009

Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern Hits (DS)

Guitar Hero On Tour, for the Nintendo DS, was a surprise worldwide hit in 2008 despite its mixed critical reception. Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern Hits is the third instalment of the cramp-inducing series that comes complete with a handful of tweaks and a new “modern” set-list.

Guitar Hero On Tour is probably better described as “Plectrum Hero”, since the gameplay centres around the use of the custom four-button fret board device that plugs into the DS Slot 2 (sorry DSi owners, no rock for you!), and a large plectrum stylus. The mechanics are fully translated from the plastic guitar version. The only difference being that the board has only 4 tracks of notes, and you strum on the touch screen using the plectrum stylus. Star Power, activated by shouting into the microphone, and Whammy effects are all present just as before.

Modern Hits makes no amendments to the series’ tried and tested gameplay, and it’s still the same heady mix of “Wow! this really works” and “Oow! This really hurts!” Strumming the plectrum on the virtual strings, and holding the frets, is enjoyable and feels strangely satisfying. The problem is you have to hold the DS very still in an uncomfortable portrait position. If you rock-out for anything more than 30 minutes at a time, it induces a painful cramp in your wrist and fingers. You will also constantly find yourself adjusting your grip or even propping the DS on a convenient shelf – a beer belly in my case.

The presentation is what you would expect from Guitar Hero. You get the usual whimsical 3D animations of the franchise characters, such as Clive Wilson and Judy Nails, performing on crazy virtual stages around the world. The sound, however, is heavily compressed to fit onto the DS cartridge. If you are not are wearing headphones the music will sound tinny and flat – not ideal for a rock music game.

Structurally Modern Hits is pretty much the same as the previous two installments. There are some cosmetic changes to menu layout and new replay challenges for each song you unlock. Modern Hits, like the two previous games, is fully cross-compatible with other Guitar Hero On Tour games: so you can enjoy a multiplayer game with a friend even if you both have different versions. I have found this feature to be particularly useful for long train journeys with the wife or friends. The technology to stream the song from one DS to another, during gameplay, is seamless.

Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern Hits is fun in small bursts but, ultimately, rhythm music games like this are judged on the set-list they contain. Like most Guitar Hero games, you can enjoy playing the notes on certain songs even if you might not like the music itself. It really is up to you to decide if these songs make you want to wield your inner plectrum, or “run to the hills”. (3/5)

12 Stones – “Adrenalin”
AFI – “Miss Murder”
Angels & Airwaves – “Call to Arms”
Atreyu – “Falling Down”
Black Tide – “Shockwave”
Coldplay – “Violet Hill”
Endeverafter – “I Wanna Be Your Man”
Evanescence – “Sweet Sacrifice”
Fall Out Boy – “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race”
Finger Eleven – “Paralyzer”
Foo Fighters – “All My Life”
Franz Ferdinand – “The Fallen”
Kaiser Chiefs – “Ruby”
Lenny Kravitz – “Where Are We Runnin’?”
Modest Mouse – “Dashboard”
Phantom Planet – “Do The Panic”
Sum 41 – “Still Waiting”
Tenacious D – “The Metal”
The Bravery – “Unconditional”
The Donnas – “What Do I Have to Do”
The Duke Spirit – “Lassoo”
The Fratellis – “Chelsea Dagger”
The Kooks – “Always Where I Need to Be”
The Offspring – “Half-Truism”
The Strokes – “Reptilia”
Weezer – “Everybody Get Dangerous”
Wolfmother – “Dimension”
Yellowcard – “Lights and Sounds”