Guitar Hero On Tour – Decades (DS) Review
The Guitar Hero franchise made its debut on the Nintendo DS last year with a small song setlist and a peripheral which replicated the experience of a guitar game replicating the experience of a guitar. The game received a mixed response from reviewers and gamers alike. Well, it’s back again this year, slightly delayed, with a new setlist, a few new characters and none of the promised song sharing. Plus, it’s the first Guitar Hero title to not have the Gibson Guitars license.
Guitar Hero on Tour: Decades has the same menu system, game engine and general feel as the first game, but the developers have tried to make it look like a brand new game by redesigning the heads-up-display. The Rock Meter is new, and reminiscent of Guitar Hero 3, with Star Power now in the shape of a microphone to better represent the “best” option for activating star power – yelling into the DS microphone.
The graphics have had an incredibly minor clean-up, although the new venues look far better than the original game. The character animations still suffer from the same issues as the first game, particularly with the guitarists not appearing to play to the music and a lack of smooth transfers between each animation.
The game plays almost exactly the same as the original, however there is a couple of noticeable differences in the general feel. For starters, a nice feature of the first game was the ability to strum a note and activate star power on the same stroke by tapping the Star Power bar. This time, the developers have made the feature more clunky, removing the ability to strum and activate Star Power at the same time – it’s a case of have one or the other, which is a bad situation when you take it out on the road (more on that later).
Another change is the strumming, it appears Vicarious Visions have gone and decided to “tighten up” the strumming on the touch screen, which means you have to make smaller, more accurate strokes on the screen. This is quite hard to maintain on songs like Free Ride and I Believe in a Thing Called Love that require repeated fast strumming.
The much-loved system for separating songs according to difficulty also goes out the window, with the song groupings based on their release decade. This means you’ll often have to perform a hard encore song, only to be whisked away to a new venue to play a rather uneventful and easy introduction song. It does make it easy to find a song later on, but instead of the game ramping up the challenge factor, it sort of, well, teases you, in a way.
Multiplayer is essentially the same as the first game, with the same menu system from the first game returning. The promised song sharing between the first On Tour and On Tour: Decades does not actually work on Australian-bought copies of the game due to archaic region locking between the two titles. The first game was released with an Australian-coded cartridge, while GHOT: Decades is UK-coded, meaning that there is no way to play between each other unless you have two copies of the same game. Luckily Activision has said they will replace your cartridge with a correctly coded one and that all future shipments will have the correct cartridge.
The song list this time around is not only bigger, but arguably better, with songs from the 70s, 80s, 90s and the 2000s, on top of the modern music. Some of the bands featured include Alien Ant Farm, Boston, The Foo Fighters, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Paramore. Several songs from Guitar Hero: World Tour also made the jump, such as Eye of the Tiger and The Middle. The sound quality is equivalent to the first DS game, which is rather great quality considering the compression required to fit everything onto a DS Cartridge. It’s probably the equivalent of a stereo YouTube video.
Seeing as this is a portable version of Guitar Hero, we decided to take it on the road and conduct a few tests. We mainly wanted to see how it works if you take it on public transport; to see how other people around you react while you play the game, and to see if it’s actually worth it.
The first test was to see whether the game was playable on a bus. Initial impressions with the headphones were good, until the bus headed off. The engine noise was enough to set off the microphone-activated star power immediately, no matter how low the sensitivity was set. So unless you can easily get your way through the song, you wouldn’t appreciate this. Coupled with the now poor means of non-microphone activation, this alone gets it a 2.5/5 rating.
The second test was to see how people reacted to someone playing the game. Most people on the bus looked at the DS once, and then took a second look as to what was attached to it, otherwise there wasn’t much else to note. This all changed, however, when I played it at the bus stop. Now, the bus stop had at least 20 people there, with all the bench space taken. As soon as I started playing the game, it appears that the tapping sound of the touch screen is incredibly annoying for virtually anybody around you not listening to an iPod. So if you don’t like being cramped at the bus stop, play this game and people will get out of your way immediately, so it’s a 4.5/5 rating purely for the bench space.
The final test was to see whether or not it is viable as a portable game, and to be honest, the answer is yes and no. Yes, because it’s much easier to carry around than a full-sized controller, a copy of the game and potentially a console, but on the other hand, the DS is no longer slim enough to fit in your pants. Even if you remove the grip, that’s two pockets taken up for the one game. The sun plays a factor here too, so if you’re playing outdoors, you’re going to need to find a place with shade just to view the screen, so I’d give it a 3/5 just because I’m sitting here on the fence.
Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades is a worthy addition for any Guitar Hero fan. If you didn’t like the first game, you definitely won’t like this one, as there isn’t any ground-breaking addition here. The lack of song sharing in multiplayer really hurts the game’s long-term attractiveness, as we miss out on selecting from a potential pool of almost 60 songs. So really, if you liked the first game, go for this one too, just don’t come back crying about a sore wrist.