E3 2012: Rock Band Blitz Hands-on

The plastic drums are in the back of the closet, kept company by the guitar, and the Rock Band DLC is sleeping on the hard drive.  Rock Band was a blast for three full games and a pile of expansion discs, but for the most part the plastic instrument aspect of the music genre is retired.  Still, it’s a shame to let that much content just sit there, especially when the Rock Band library keeps growing by a couple of songs a week, so Rock Band Blitz offers a new way to use its giant music library.

Rock Band Blitz was shown on a single monitor in the XBLA section of Microsoft’s booth, which was kind of an odd choice for one of the most fun games on the show floor.  The helpful Harmonix rep explained it was because they’d been at PAX and had another showing coming up, but this much awesome shouldn’t be tucked away in a corner.  Once I found it, though, and spent a minute or two on the tutorial, Rock Band Blitz quickly became a must-play whenever I walked by that section of the show.

Much like the original Rock Band, what makes Blitz so fun is a near-instant accessibility coupled with how much fun it is to play with music.  It uses the instrument tracks from any Rock Band 3-compatible song (barring the on-disc songs from RB3 itself, unfortunately.  There’s just no way to stream them.) and runs them through an algorithm to transform each track into a two-button lane.  All instruments plus vocal have their own lane, and it’s always your choice as to which one you want to be in.  Each lane has notes on the left and right, and you need to hit the correct one to score.  I found using a quick tap on the d-pad’s down arrow for the left note, and A button for the right easiest, but you can also use the analog sticks.  The basic actions are simple enough, but things quickly get crazy when the notes start flying fast and thick and you’re bouncing a pinball power-up around.

Generally one wants to retain a note of caution about E3 builds, or any preview for that matter, but Rock Band Blitz is just a blast to play!  It adapts the songs perfectly to playing with controller, and changes up the gameplay enough that it doesn’t feel overly-familiar no matter how many times you may have played a specific song in the original Rock Band games. It lands on XBLA/PSN sometime mid-summer, most likely after Summer of Arcade, and while the price is as yet undetermined, the sheer volume of content should make Rock Band Blitz worth whatever they end up asking.  It’s the wai-ai-ting, as Tom Petty said, that’s the hardest part.