It’s hard to deny the power of a phenomenon. Every since the first Guitar Hero hit the shelves, video games have changed, so much so that it’s become a whole new genre of game. Guitar Rock Tour is a solid implementation of this for the iPhone.
If you’re not familiar with the gameplay basics at all, it’s pretty simple: colored dots come down a virtual fretboard in time with the music, and you have to tap them right as they hit the end of the fretboard. If you do this, a song plays perfectly in the background. If you don’t, the guitar sound in the recorded track cuts in and out, and you’ll hear virtual boos from the crowd listening to your show.
Guitar Rock Tour is a solid implementation of this concept. There’s an excellent selection of tracks (including “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” “Heart Shaped Box,” and “Message in a Bottle”) and three difficulty levels. The graphics are solid, and the songs sound good – so long as you hit the buttons on time. You can play as either a drummer or a guitarist.
Nevertheless, I find the game a little wanting. What makes the original Guitar Hero, and Rock Band work so well, in my opinion, is their function as social games. You get a bunch of friends together, grab some chips and beer, and hang out and play. On an iPhone, obviously, that social element is gone, so what’s left is a fairly straightforward tapping exercise.
I also haven’t found any version of this game – on any platform – that really felt like it got the feel of being a guitarist right. Something about the interplay of the notes on the screen and the beat of the music, which Guitar Rock Tour gets very close, but doesn’t quite nail. Perhaps it’s just that, for me, playing rock music isn’t about playing every note at a precisely indicated time, but rather it’s about feeling the groove and working with it. Sometimes you lead the beat, sometimes to trail it, sometimes you hit the strings a little harder.
All of those nuances, of course, don’t exist in any version of this concept, so it’s hard to criticize Guitar Rock Tour for not having them. They key is, of course, to remember that this is a game, not a guitar simulation, and to have fun with it. And as a game, I’ll happily play it with friends and have a good time doing it.
But solo? I’d rather go work on “Message in Bottle” on my guitar, instead. However, if you want a solid implementation of the Guitar Hero idea for the iPhone with some great available tracks, then it’s worth checking out.