Band Hero (Wii)
The music snob in me wants to Fry Band Hero. He wants to roll Activision's new teenybopper twist on Guitar Hero in panko and dip the damn thing in a vat of boiling partially hydrogenated oil. But the music snob in me is kind of a dick. And honestly, he can be a real pain in the ass if you get him started. He'll go on forever about how the music industry has gone down the shitter, how kids today have the Internet at their fingertip -- access to every musician known to man -- and they still listen to shit like Paramore.
So let's sneak away while that jerk isn't looking so we can talk about Band Hero like rational human beings. Perfect, he's totally occupied ripping the new Krallice record to mp3. Look at that dork. He's making sure the album art is in the right folder so the picture shows up when he listens to the songs on his iPod. It's a miracle I ever got married with that jerk around to shit up my conversations.
Here's the thing about Band Hero. Set aside any animosity you have toward Activision. It's okay, we have a while. Go ahead and offload your annoyance that Bobby Kotick's minions are running music games into the ground. And if you get ticked off by lame product placement like I do, you can shove some of your disdain in that closet over there.
OK, we're almost ready to talk about Band Hero now -- unfettered by our prejudices, pet peeves and whatnot. Here's the skinny. Band Hero is pretty much Guitar Hero 5 with boring, bland music peppered in-between the upbeat hits. Hey! My music snob was listening all along. And he just had to pipe in with his crap. Don't let him know, but he's kinda right. For every killer karaoke track like Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" or "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" by the Culture Club (seriously, my snob will back me up on this), there are a handful of throwaway tracks by mild-mannered rockers like Parachute, Hinder and Maroon 5. Of course, you can always pull in your Guitar Hero DLC if you want. But that's not really the point of this game.
Jerks like my music snob can't seem to get it through their thick skulls that there are tons of people out there in the world (you may be one of them) that haven't cultivated a complex set of music tastes. They just dig toe-tapping, catchy music. Band Hero is for them. You can see it in the game's art style -- all purple glitter and rounded edges. There's very little grungy rock vibe or sneering punk attitude here (though I did notice that you could still choose "black metal" as your rocker's style). Don't tell the snob, but even I sort of dig the idea of some tween kid who gets Band Hero for Christmas learning that yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as black metal.
The next thing I noticed was that I could put an octopus on my rocker's head right out of the box. Call me crazy, but I dig when a game doesn't take itself very seriously. That's an accusation you could never levy at Band Hero, with its bubblegum-pop, cheeky story about a bunch of Black Eyed Peas clones gunning for stardom, and its easygoing vibe (just like in Guitar Hero 5 you can play a no-fail casual party mode).
So take Band Hero for what it is. Or don't. Nobody's twisting your arm. But I should mention some nifty features exclusive to the Nintendo Wii version of the game. You connect your DS to your Wii during party mode. Wallflowers or potential band mates that plan to cycle through your rotation can book the evening's set list from the couch by picking and choosing songs on the DS. How awesome is that? I hope Harmonix is taking notes. The other bit of Nintendo DS connectivity is a little more gimmicky. As you play through the Band Hero career, you unlock challenges that can only be achieved while playing Band Hero on the DS. Pretty sneaky, sis. You gotta have another whole game to make this feature work. Like any casual music fan is going to own both versions of the game.
Before I grab my snob and go, there's one last thing to talk about -- all the ado raised by No Doubt and the way its avatars are represented in Band Hero. Apparently the band is suing Activision because you can unlock its avatars and use them to sing any song. What's that? Oh. It's my music snob. He has a good point. He says the rest of the artists in Band Hero and Guitar Hero should file a class-action suit against No Doubt for weaseling its way into the game and crapping up its songs with its lame avatars. I knew there was a reason I keep that guy around.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Nintendo Wii game provided by the publisher.