Saturday, September 27, 2008


Battle of the Bands

Here's the thing about Battle of the Bands, the rhythm action game for the Nintendo Wii.

It's bad.

The graphics are bad, the gameplay is bland at best and unbalanced at worst, and the whole thing is tied together with a boring presentation that screams "SHOVELWARE".

Buy it anyway.

There are two very good reasons why I just bought a copy of Battle of the Bands, and you should too.

First and foremost, this is the only game in town that lets you create a situation where a college marching band battles an undead mariachi band to the death with weaponized musical instruments for the privilege of playing a cover of "Master Exploder" in their respective musical styles. If that's the sort of thing you want to see -- and it is -- then this is the only place where you can go. And thanks to its status as a critical and commercial flop, there's not likely to be any sequels or imitators. This is all we've got. They've cornered the market.

Give credit where it's due -- there are 153 full-length musical tracks crammed into this game. Each of the game's 30 songs had to be recorded in five different musical styles (plus three more for the game's unplayable boss character) in order to accommodate the game's hook -- it's a two-player competitive rhythm game where the song is played in the style of the band that's controlling the match.

I've always been fascinated by listening to music played in different styles. Symphony orchestras playing contemporary rock and rock bands playing classic orchestra pieces. Weird Al Yankovic setting pop lyrics to polka music. And now, Battle of the Bands, where you can hear a country western cover of Whoomp There It Is, a Spanish language version of Feel Good Inc., a marching band rendition of Spoonman, a Hip Hop version of Blitzkrieg Bop, and a rock version of That's the Way I Like It.

In a move that can only be described as classy, the developers gave us a complete jukebox with on-the-fly style selection. Completely open from the start. You never even have to play the real game. See, they knew what we were getting into this for.

Once you get over the novelty of hearing familiar songs played in new ways, put it away. But do so with the understanding that you will want to pull it out again a couple months down the line. This stuff gets under your skin.

The other good reason to buy this game right now is because it was a bad game that sold like crap, and now that retailers want to make room on their shelves for the big holiday games coming up, it's been priced to move. Like Cooking Mama, Harvey Birdman, and Wario Ware: Smooth Moves, Battle of the Bands is the ideal bargain bin rescue. It's exactly playable enough that you can enjoy the gimmick, and the enjoyment lasts exactly long enough to justify your $10 investment. You'll be happy you tried it, and you'll feel all smug for not buying it at full price like a chump.


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