Reviewing a video game is a strange experience, and one that has little to do with actually playing the game. True, you play more of the game than probably 80 percent of the people that play the game (let alone read your review), but you do it all in one compressed space. In the case of some games, that can take 40 or 50 hours. In the case of “The Beatles: Rock Band,” it took around three.
For most people, this is a game to be picked up and toyed with over a couple weeks or maybe a month or two, getting five stars on all the lower difficulties before moving up to the higher ones. “The Beatles: Rock Band” is a game that will reward that. The animation and the character models avoid the uncanny valley gracefully, straddling the line between realism and a cartoonish pop-artistry that comes close to capturing the sound of The Beatles in the form of animations of the musicians themselves. If you look closely, you can see that even the characters’ eyes move around the studio or concert venue, a touch added after the completely insane Yoko Ono complained that John didn’t look “special” enough. Thanks for that, Yoko!
While the environments are another testament to the amount of time spent on the game, the concert venues only hit average on the impressive scale. It’s cool to see girls screaming and running onto the field at Shea Stadium, but at the game’s proper volume, the shrieks might pierce an unsuspecting eardrum. Where the design really shines, and the exact point where my score began to decline, thanks to distracting animation brilliance, is when the band moves away from touring and encloses themselves in a studio. From the studio, The Beatles transition into what the game’s creator calls Dreamscapes. Not to spoil any surprises – you’ll thank me later – it rules. Times a million.
Although some of the Dreamscapes are a little predictable, and some are even bland, when they hit their sweet spot, it transforms playing Rock Band into a kind of weird, pseudo-spectator sport and could make of a group of people banging on plastic instruments more enjoyable than might be expected.
If you buy the special edition, it comes with instruments, a microphone stand and a lock of one of The Beatles’ hairdos. There’s a rumor going around that in some cases, they included a lock of George Martin’s or Brian Epstein’s hair, but I find those to be patently ridiculous and not worth paying a lot of attention to. I have also heard rumors of “friends of a friend’s” special editions containing a sample of Billy Preston’s hair, but I doubt if those claims have any merit. The instruments themselves are fairly decent replicas of the actual Beatles instruments, with John Lennon’s bass and Ringo Starr’s drums accurately imitating the rock stars’ actual instruments. I’m not sure whose microphone stand is present, though.
There are a myriad of achievements that you can unlock throughout the game, some bringing with them photos of The Beatles as well as recordings and videos, including a truly bizarre Christmas record released to the band’s fan club around the second or third year of the group’s popularity.
“The Beatles:: Rock Band” is not a game to rush through. It is a game to be played in a spare moment, or a few free hours, so you can play songs until you are good enough to impress people at parties (or just good enough not embarrass yourself). Word of warning: Do not play “Dear Prudence” on guitar for your first time in a room full of people impressed by “Rock Band” skills; there are a lot of sections where it’s just you playing, and nothing kills a buzz faster than a bunch of messed up notes in “Dear Prudence.” With that in mind, buy “The Beatles: Rock Band,” or convince your roommate to buy it, or convince your roommate’s parents to buy it. You will not be disappointed.
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