Rock Band for iPhone/iPod Touch Review – Hammering Your Touch Screen Surprisingly Fun

Rock Band for Apple iPhoneThe Apple iPhone is becoming quite a serious contender in the gaming stakes with hardware that is capable of challenging other portable hand-held entertainment systems such as the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP. It may not have an array of buttons like its competitors, however it makes up for it with an extremely sharp and colourful display, while also taking advantage of its touch screen.

Rock Band is my favourite rhythm game on the Xbox 360, having the edge over rival Guitar Hero and now my musical champion has appeared on the iPhone Store for £5.99 with 20 tracks to tap along to either as Bass, Guitar, Drums or vocals. So how has this title transferred to Apple’s device?

rbsideSurprisingly well would be the answer to that. Obviously you are not going to be utilising your plastic imitation instruments like you would on the console counterparts, however you will make full use of the iPhone’s touch screen. As usual you select from three instruments or vocals. For anyone who has experienced the joys of Rock Band will recognise the menu system, the graphic styles and of course the gameplay.

Following the coloured bars that drift down the screen, you are required to tap the appropriate plectrum or drum pad (touch screen button beneath the coloured bar) with impeccable timing. With easy, medium and hard settings available, the increasing difficulty will reveal a greater number of bars appearing on the screen with complex multi-finger combinations thrust upon you particularly on the guitar. The same bonuses exist rewarding your skills and if you physically flick your iPhone it will initiate the ‘Overdrive’, ramping up the score multipliers. If you choose the vocal option, do not fear you don’t have to sing in public! Instead you follow round dots, again aiming for perfect timing, following the vocal melody. If you make too many mistakes, the song ends abruptly forcing you to have another crack.

You may expect certain limitations on a portable version of Rock Band and of course you would be correct. The music audio is in mono rather than stereo and although this doesn’t matter when using the single iPhone speaker, it will affect your headphone wearing enjoyment. This becomes almost insignificant though when you start playing the game and realise that just like the console version, the individual instruments and even the vocal track’s audio cut out if your timing is wrong. In effect, there are still multiple audio tracks with each song, so you can just about forgive the mono sound. An audio indication of a mistake not just a visual one is crucial when comparing Rock Band for iPhone to the competition on the platform allowing it to really shine.

If you want to play a song of your choice, its easy just to select ‘Quick Play’, however the ‘World Tour’ mode is available for those wanting a career like progression. World Tour sees you competing around the globe at different venues with set songs or a mystery selection. Although its presented as different stages, this isn’t really comparable to Rock Band on consoles. There are no 3D animated characters and environments mimicking the song selections, instead short video segments are stitched together with some attempt to match what is transpiring in the song. If the drums are playing a significant part, the drum video appears and it is the same for other instruments and vocals as the track progresses. Really you could never take in the full effect of the animations anyway and it was more of a pleasing eye candy sensation for friends waiting their turn in the queue. Thankfully though the visual style of the rest of the screen is a faithful adaptation giving you four virtual buttons to tap. The framerate can jolt a little at times, but not enough to adversely affect the gameplay.

rbside2The pure genious aspect though has to be the Facebook integration. Here you can compare your scores with any iPhone friends you have on this social networking website, pushing you harder to improve your own scores and ramp up the difficulty. You can also compete with friends over Bluetooth (2-4 players) if they are with you in person.

Twenty tracks is surely a good selection to get you started and there is the opportunity to purchase additional tracks at a reasonable price of 59p for a pack of two.

Tracks included with Rock Band:

  • 30 Seconds to Mars – “Attack”
  • AFI – “Girls Not Grey”
  • All American Rejects – “Move Along”
  • Beastie Boys – “Sabotage”
  • Blink 182 – “All the Small Things”
  • Blondie – “Hanging on the Telephone”
  • Foo Fighters – “Learn to Fly”
  • Foo Fighters – “Everlong”
  • George Thorogood and the Destroyers – “Bad to the Bone”
  • Jethro Tull – “Hymn 43”
  • Joan Jett – “Bad Reputation”
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Simple Man”
  • Motörhead – “Ace of Spades”
  • Rise Against – “Give It All”
  • Silversun Pickups – “Lazy Eye”
  • Steve Miller Band – “Take the Money and Run”
  • The Pixies – “Debaser”
  • The Presidents of the United States of America – “Ladybug”
  • The Go Go’s – “We Got The Beat”
  • Smashing Pumpkins – “Cherub Rock”

Conclusion

Although the music is in mono, spoiling the headphone experience slightly, the features associated with Rock Band make the move over to the iPhone with surprisingly joyful results. If you love your rhythm games, Rock Band is the perfect choice for releasing your musical soul while out and about in the real world. With achievements, leaderboards, audio indications of mistakes and even multiplayer aspects, you will be hard pushed to find anything on the iPhone that entertains more in this genre.

iTunes Store Link: Rock Band

Rating: 3.5 / 5 

James Woodcock

Freelance Journalist, Author, Blogger & Podcaster specialising in gaming and technology. Ever since he experienced the first controllable pixel movement on the television screen, he has been entranced by the possibilities and rewarding entertainment value generated from these metal and plastic boxes of delight. Writing hundreds of articles including commentary and reviews on various gaming platforms, while also interviewing well known industry figures for popular online publications.

  • I really enjoyed this game and found to be a really separate experience from the console versions. About the mono sound, I had sound in both ears while using my headphones, so it’s not as if mono translates to a muted earphone, it just means the audio is not truly audio. This was most likely done to cut down on the file size and I don’t think it really impacts the gameplay experience.

  • The sound is indeed mono, however that doesn’t mean it comes out of a single speaker of course. It just means there is only one channel sent to both speakers where music is stereo or two separate channels usually.

    I am sure they decided to use mono to save space as you say, but it is worth highlighting as music always sounds a lot better in stereo, however as I said in my review:

    “This becomes almost insignificant though when you start playing the game and realise that just like the console version, the individual instruments and even the vocal track’s audio cut out if your timing is wrong. In effect, there are still multiple audio tracks with each song, so you can just about forgive the mono sound.”