XBLIG Review: A-Band – minus most of the band

A-Band published by Flammable Games is a rhythm game with some indie love. While the name may suggest a band, the game is focused solely on the drum aspect. The drum rhythm game is a fresh take on the genre that is somewhat hampered by its inability to lower the learning curve for beginners as well as provide calibration.

 

A-Band is not a complete rehash of the old Guitar Hero/ Rock Band games, but instead is a highly polished and presentable game experience that rivals the commercial alternatives. Included are lessons, challenges, a campaign/tour, recording and playback. The vast options available are sure to keep drummers busy with a variety of learning and playing time.

The game is an interesting take on the drum aspect, and the Indie-only artists’ songs make it truly an indie experience. The controls are similar to other games for the drum peripheral, which is necessary for the game. The game gives the option to play with either the Guitar Hero or the Rock Band drum configuration, an inclusion that allows you to dig out whatever plastic drums you have in the back of your closet. That being said, novices should try to procure a Rock Band set as it includes less buttons to worry about.

The game focuses solely on the drums, so if you are terrible playing the percussion instrument, you will not have an enjoyable experience. A-Band is not really great for beginner, plastic drummers; however the game shines if you have some idea of what you are doing. That being said, some of the easier songs can be faked with some graceful cymbal bashing.

The game highlights 12 indie bands and their songs that can be played in the campaign. The songs are ones you have likely never heard of, unless you are particularly familiar with the indie music scene. In the campaign, you start off with two songs and a new song unlocks with every song you successfully complete.

While the music is new at first, after a few plays in the campaign, the songs can get repetitive. This is where A-Band shows its brilliance. The game includes lessons to learn beats and helps you get them down before it will let you proceed to the next one. The game also has a jam session where it provides a background beat you can play along with. It also has the option to let you form your own beat that you can save and play later. Also, it would have been nice if more songs could become available in the future, preferably as community provided content.

The lessons are quite beneficial for people that want to learn more beats and expand their drumming repertoire. However, the method can become quite draconian at times. The lessons show you the beat once, and then you are given the opportunity to repeat the beat on your own. If you make one mistake, you fail, the lesson stops and you have to start over. While this idea is good if you want to perfect a beat, if you are tripping up on a particular part, you are never going to proceed on. This can become somewhat limiting since the game does not let you proceed onto other lessons until you complete the one that is before it.

One side complaint about the game is more an oversight by Flammable Games than anything else. These types of games usually are great party games, but A-Band is solely for the drums. Since the game is focused on the drums, it in-essence becomes a single player game. The game could have benefited immensely if it allowed the ability to hook up two or more plastic drums. This would help make the game an excellent party game, as well as provide something that neither Guitar Hero nor Rock Band provides. Oh, the drum battles that could have happened.

Compatibility seems to be spot on for the game between both the Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock and the Rock Band drums. The nagging problem was the lack of ability to calibrate the drums with the TV. Since some TVs have a delay in the display and/or audio, this problem can greatly hamper one’s ability to not only play well, but also pass simple songs.

Overall A-Band provides a great experience that can be enjoyed by enthusiast of the genre, especially for drummers. However, the game missteps when dealing with people who are still not great on the plastic drums and with providing an option to calibrate the game’s audio and video for varying TVs. It also misses an opportunity to provide a unique experience to simultaneously play with multiple drums.

Final Rating: 7/10

 

CBR Break Down:

Console Played On: XBLIG

Time to completion: 2-3 hours for the campaign, with many more available

Gamer Score Earned: N/A

Price Bought at: N/A – Copy provided by Flammable Games

Current Price: 240 Microsoft Points ($3)

Recommend Purchase Price: 240 Microsoft Points ($3)

Why you should buy it: A-Band  is a great drum rhythm game that provides more than a campaign. If you need a refreshing take on the genre, this is the answer.

Why you shouldn’t buy it: If you were never good at the drums on Guitar Hero or Rock Band, you will not like this game. Nor will you enjoy it if you are sick of plastic instruments, dining room rock stars and/ or any sort of music heroes.

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About Steve Lesniewski

Steve lives in Chicago and recently graduated from the University of Illinois. He has been fascinated with video games since his ninth birthday when he received a Gameboy Color and Pokemon Blue. He loves following sports and cheers win or lose for the Bears, Bulls and the Fighting Illini, who include the 2012 men’s gymnastic national champs as well as the 2011 women’s volleyball national runner-up.