Rock Band Unplugged PSP
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Harmonix
Rock Band was the first game to give you a complete playing in a band experience, offering you the option of playing more than just a guitar. Bringing the series to the PSP was always going to see a few changes however. You just can't plug in your guitar or drum kit into a handheld console. Even it was possible it would simply be ridiculous. Rock Band Unplugged shows that the series can be appealing on the PSP despite a lack of plastic peripherals to add to the immersion factor.
In Rock Band Unplugged you'll play all of the parts in the band. The lead guitar, bass guitar, drums and vocals each have their own tracks that you'll switch between during the course of a song. The modes on offer are Quick Play and Tour. There is also a training mode and a music store where you can purchase downloadable content from the online store. Under the Extras option, on the main menu, you'll also find a Band Survival mode and a Warm-up mode, where you can simply practice getting your rhythm correct with either the guitar, bass, vocals or drums. Unfortunately there are no multiplayer options in Unplugged, although you do have the ability to access an online store to purchase extra songs.
In the Tour mode, which you'll need to play through to unlock all of the songs, you'll get to name your band, choose their hometown and pick a logo for them. You'll get to choose a name for each member of your group and select their gender, attitude (choices here are Rock, Punk, Goth and Metal), skin colour, weight, height and finally, choose from a selection of clothes for them to wear. Different instruments and clothes can also be purchased with the small amount of money you have to begin with. Initially you won't be able to afford most of these however. Once you've set up your band you'll embark on your first gig.
During the game you'll be playing single and sustained notes, power chords and phrases (you'll need to play every note within a phrase indicator correctly in order to complete the phrase) and solos. As in other Rock Band games there are four different notes represented by red, yellow, green and blue blocks. The idea is to press the appropriate button to play the note the moment it hits the target line. In Rock Band Unplugged you also have what is known as a Phrase Indicator which is essentially a frame that's put around a series of notes. If you play all of the notes correctly in a Phrase Indicator the instrument, or vocals, will play by themselves for a while allowing you to move to another instrument track.
Whilst you're playing a song you'll have to keep the crowd happy. You'll do this by playing correctly to keep the crowd meter filled. Of course you'll have to play all four parts well (bass, guitar, vocals and drums), so you'll need to switch between the four different tracks. The basic idea is to constantly switch between the tracks and keep them all playing along nicely. On the easier difficulty levels and simpler songs this isn't too much of a problem but on higher difficulty levels and more complex songs it can provide you with one heck of a challenge. Eventually, you'll have one of the tracks fail because you couldn't get to it in time. As in other Rock Band games you can use Overdrive to save a failed track (Overdrive is earned when you've filled your Energy meter, which you'll fill by playing Energy notes correctly). If all tracks fail however, or if you have more than two failed tracks, you'll fail the song.
To hit the notes in Unplugged you'll use the left and up directional buttons along with the triangle and circle buttons. The X and down directional buttons are used to enable overdrive whilst the L and R buttons will track switch left and right respectively. You can redefine the controls if you wish but I had no trouble with them and found them to be comfortable.
From a visual standpoint, Rock Band Unplugged is rather pleasing. The character models aren't anything special but they look good enough and there are plenty of customisation options. The various locations you play in all look good too, although it's doubtful you'll have much time to appreciate them given the hectic nature of the game. Some of the load times are on the long side but that's about the only complaint that can be made regarding the game's presentation.
Due to the music based nature of the game, I don't think anyone would expect Rock Band Unplugged to be a wonderful experience for a deaf gamer. In fact the game does lose a lot of its appeal without the ability to hear the different instruments. Disappointingly, the game's tutorials aren't subtitled and as a result aren't really of any value. In fact the game doesn't offer any subtitles at all. Hearing gamers will hear the different sounds of the various instruments and vocals whilst they are playing through a song but for deaf gamers it's simply a case of having to manage four different tracks and as such the game isn't as varied or as unique an experience as it should be. Whilst the game is playable for deaf gamers then, it's just not as involving an experience as it is for hearing gamers.
Hearing gamers who enjoy Rock Band or Guitar Hero games should definitely purchase Rock Band Unplugged. You're getting a unique twist on the traditional formula that's perfectly suited to the PSP. Deaf gamers, who probably won't have considered the game anyway (hence the lack of a Deaf Gamers Classification rating), should probably give the game a miss. That's not say the game can't be enjoyable for deaf gamers but it's a game that does rely heavily on its audio content.