Activision tries to capture the female tween market. For the rest of us, this is just painful.
The first thing I did when I popped this Guitar Hero game into my Wii, was look at the set list. It's nice that it is completely unlocked in Quickplay. It was clear that I wasn’t going to enjoy about 90 percent of these songs, since there are not one but two songs by No Doubt and Taylor Swift, Jesse McCartney, KT Tunstall, Fallout Boy, All-American Rejects, and more. This is Guitar Hero: Top 40's edition, skewed towards pre-teen girls. There are also some really bizarre oldies thrown in, like Marvin Gaye, Village People, and the Turtles. After scrolling through the entire Quickplay track list, I found maybe ten songs I actually had interest in playing, among them "Rio," "Love is a Battlefield," and "When She Says She Loves Me."
So the track list is awful, but how's the rest of the game? Happily, Band Hero delivers droves of content. Next time you have a sleepover with your girlfriends (and you're not busy pillow fighting), Band Hero is a great party game. The big multiplayer romps are Party Play, which basically just plays songs at random and lets people drop in and out with whatever instrument they want (four drums? No problem!). Nobody can fail, so it's a very easygoing play mode. There's also a straight-up karaoke mode, Sing-Along, also a no-fail game that's basically Party Play with vocals only. Of course, the usual competitive modes are in here, which are generally quite fun. You can also jump online and play competitively. Of course, you can create tracks just like you could in Guitar Hero: World Tour and Guitar Hero 5, publish them online, and download other people's songs. Additionally, all downloadable songs for Guitar Hero: World Tour and Guitar Hero 5 are compatible with Band Hero.
If you have a Nintendo DS (and who doesn't?), you can use the handheld to power up a friend in Band Hero or sabotage an opponent. You can also use the DS to rearrange or add to the existing set list. If you have Band Hero on the DS, you can connect the games to unlock bonus content in both. The only real downside to the DS additions is that you need two guitars to use the Roadie Battle mode, and Band Hero only comes with one guitar.
There's clearly no shortage of content here. I did find that online multiplayer was not in active use, and it saddened me that over the many times I tried to play online, nobody was playing.
I can't say I like the graphical style, though. Band Hero attempts to be a little more abstract than Guitar Hero: World Tour or Guitar Hero 5, and none of the franchise's standby characters are recognizable. Everyone looks very generic, which is only enhanced by the fact that you can change their appearances to your heart's content or just build a new character from scratch. Another point is that simply put, the Wii version just can't stand up next to the HD consoles in graphical fidelity, and looks noticeably worse. It's low-resolution, fuzzy, and sometimes you'll see some skipped animations.
The instruments are interesting - I’d never used Wii instruments before, so it was a little alarming to see how forced their integration with the Wii Remote is. You literally plug the Wii Remote into the instruments, and then fold everything down into a hatch. If you usually use a Wii Remote Jacket, that'll have to come off. The wrist strap doesn’t really mesh with the confines of the hatch, either. For the drums especially, I just found it easier to take the strap off. Thankfully, the microphone is just a standard USB mic that you select with the Wii Remote and then use during songs.
Band Hero is clearly aimed at a very specific audience, and for that audience it's a goldmine of content that they'll enjoy. For guys like me, who actually like rock music, I'll stick with something a little more hardcore. There are many good features to this game, but the setlist ain't one of 'em.