I won't waste time explaining how rhythm games work nowadays, especially considering how many millions of copies Guitar Hero
has sold, so instead I will go over what sets Band Hero
apart from the rest and see if it's worth the 50 dollars... for a DS game!
First off, there isn't any real Career Mode to speak of. From the Menu, you just start playing songs in a "Freeplay" fashion after you select your character and venues. You can set up your own 3-song playlist from over 30 songs in any order, which is nice, but there is no sense of progression anymore. Songs continue to play out even if you fail. It doesn't make that much of a difference since there aren't any restrictions to the song choices, but it seems that negative reinforcement is the wrong way to go for a "family" game.
Once the freeplay form of Band Hero sinks in, choosing from one of four instruments is rather refreshing. Pick from guitars, bass, drums, or vocals in single player or multiplayer games. After extensive amounts of time with the guitar grip in the past (it is the same, after all), I focused on the new drums and vocals feature. Drumming comes with a silicone rubber overlay that you use your fingers or thumbs to beat away to the rhythm. It is definitely a learned skill and takes a lot of adjustment coming off of the guitar, but the basics are the same.
The singing feature is the strangest design feature of Band Hero because not only do you have to hold the DS so close to your face in order for it to pick up the right notes and pitches on the DS's built-in microphone, the lyrics just appear on the top screen without making any real relation to the rhythm and tempo of the bottom screen. Not to mention the uncomfortably crossed-eyes I got from having to read lyrics two inches away from my face! Singing should have been the most fun part of Band Hero, but instead it feels embarrassing, boring, and too awkward for anyone that had a desire to sing on the go.
The multiplayer options in Band Hero are surprisingly plentiful. Wirelessly connecting with friends is easy and fun, like in the past DS Hero games. But the neatest new feature is being able to connect to the Wii to download "Fan Requests." What are essentially special challenges, Fan Requests add an actual layer of achievement and accomplishment to the bland Career. Completing certain songs under special conditions almost makes it a game within a game, but still fun and compelling. Some requests turn off the color of each note, relying more on muscle memory than hand-eye coordination, while others speed up the song as the multiplier increases until the entire song is playing in hyper-speed. Unfortunately, the only way to unlock Fan Requests is to connect the DS copy of Band Hero to a Wii that is playing Band Hero and download them wirelessly from the Wii player's Career as they unlock them. The scores and fans can be transferred from the DS to the Wii, but that just means Band Hero for the DS was never intended to stand alone, and that is a shame. I had way more fun playing the funny and clever Fan Requests than I ever did trying to beat my own high score of Duran Duran's "Hungry Like The Wolf."
The only real problem I have with Band Hero is the inclusion of "Stage Stunts." The stunts are optional mini-games that appear in the middle of any song that increase your star power and rock meter. They range from the humorous, like crowd-surfing up to the stage, to the absurd like giving fans a high-five while avoiding hitting their babies. I'm not saying the stunts aren't fun - they are a lot of fun, but they don't belong in the middle of a song. It flashes an icon that distracts too much from the simple goal of completing the song and takes away up to a fourth of playtime from each song. There is a time and place for the stunts, but they most definitely do not belong crammed between the bridge of every song.