For the past couple of years, families and friends have gathered around the TV and game systems to jam together with the Rock Band series of music video games. Now the rockin’ group fun of Rock Band has been stacked up with the whimsy and humor of the LEGO brand of toys and video games for all the major consoles (Xbox 360 version reviewed here). Best of all, even the youngest rockers can enjoy LEGO Rock Band along with the big kids.
The gameplay is essentially the same as the other Rock Band titles. Up to four can play guitar, bass, drums, or vocals. Time your button presses to the scrolling LEGO blocks to the beat of the music, or sing on pitch with the mic. The song list includes slightly more family-friendly fare, with songs and artists everyone knows like “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty, “Kung Fu Fighting,” songs from Queen, The Police, Elton John, David Bowie, and many more. Plus my personal favorite: Ghostbusters. Only problem is there are only half as many songs here as in other Rock Band games. It feels more like an expansion pack rather than a full game as far as the song list goes. But I still like it, it has more songs I know. I don’t think every DLC song will work with LEGO Rock Band, but luckily my Still Alive Portal song that I downloaded long ago works! With a special code inside LEGO Rock Band, you can export all the LEGO songs into other Rock Band titles.
The fun comes not only from the music, but from the silliness of the LEGO brand itself. Like other LEGO video games, the cutscenes are full of cartoony humor and antics. In Story Mode, your up-and-coming rock band will need a block-busting name (my band’s name is Ice Cream Truck). Then you play different venues to unlock more locations and earn LEGO studs to buy clothes, instruments, and parts for your LEGO band rockers and den. Buy LEGO vehicles so you can travel to new venues and challenges, and hire roadies, managers, and producers to increase your earnings.
Unique to LEGO Rock Band are Rock Power Challenges where you’ll use the power of rock to knock down a building or scare off ghosts, for instance. These parts of the game are reminiscent of the fantasy feel of the first two Guitar Hero games, before they got all realistic and ‘sell-out-ish’ as brother Jeff’s friend put it.
Aside from the slightly limited song selection, LEGO Rock Band has a couple of other flaws as well. LEGO Rock Band comes with the game only. There are no bundle packs, so if you don’t have the instrument peripherals yet, you’ll need them before playing. Luckily, all Rock Band and most Guitar Hero instruments will work. Aside from buying songs, there’s no online play. But then, I always felt Rock Band was more of a social, everyone-in-the-same-room kind of game. One final nitpicky problem is that the game won’t record your achievements if your profile on the controller isn’t the one doing the buying or playing, so be careful when rocking in a group if you want those points.
LEGO Rock Band is rated E-10 with ESRB descriptors of Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence, and Mild Lyrics. The violence and antics are pretty silly. Since you’re dealing with LEGO men, sometimes arms might fly off and an octopus throws a drumstick at your bass player. The songs are nothing worse than what you hear on the radio. Reading skill isn’t necessary to play, but it is helpful for wading through the menus. Adults or older folks should also help with setting up and maintaining the musical instrument controllers.
Even though it’s rated 10 and up, I think any age kid is OK playing this. In fact, there are options to make this game more accessible to the youngest of gamers. You can turn the foot pedal off on the drum set if your little drummer is too short to reach it, and there is now a Super Easy mode where all you have to do is hit any button in time with the music. You can also play smaller versions of most of the songs for shorter attention spans. Unlike in other Rock Band games, you can’t fail a song in the LEGO edition (except in the challenges), you only lose some of your earned studs But don’t worry, they didn’t dumb down this game at all for the hardcore Rock Band players. I’d like to see you experts TRY to get the 100% guitar solo on The Final Countdown achievement! With these new additions, now even the very youngest rockers can play with their older siblings, friends, and the rest of the family.
As I generally prefer silly, quirky kinds of games, the only way to get me into a Rock Band game was to make it as humorous as possible, and LEGO Rock Band does just that. It’s perfect for families, kids, and kids at heart like me. I recommend it to all Rock Band fans who don’t mind a little goofiness every now and then.