There's something you need to know up front about Power Gig: Rise of the SixString -- something I wish I had known before I first got my hands on it: It will not, cannot teach you to play guitar. At its heart, it is a Guitar Hero or Rock Band clone; or, to be more precise, a Guitar Hero or Rock Band homunculus, as every single element of Power Gig -- gameplay, control, visuals, progression -- is merely a shoddily reproduced feature of its rhythm gaming predecessors.
I want to be completely clear about what I mean when I say that Power Gig: Rise of the SixString is half-baked. I literally mean that it's built upon a fragment of a concept, as if, while pitching the title, Seven 45 Studios was cut off mid-sentence, and forced to create an entire game based on a fraction of a clause:
"So, you play the game with a real guitar, and --"
As advertised, the guitar peripheral is, in fact, a real guitar. At least, in the sense that it has the appropriate number of strings, and also some frets, and by pressing one of those strings against one of those frets and striking it violently, sounds of various tones are produced. As far as the quality of said sound -- well, it plays about as well as you'd expect a $180 guitar to play. Which is to say, not well at all.
"The game looks, feels and acts like a budget-priced title, which it very much isn't."
The guitar also features other errata you'd expect on a game controller: a guide button, a D-pad, two knobs which double as the select and start buttons -- oh, best of all, there's an analog stick which, as far as I can tell, is only used to activate your character's "Mojo Power" (see: Overdrive or Star Power). That seems like an odd sole function for an analog stick to have, doesn't it?
There's an adjustable rubber stopper as well, which silences your strings. You'll need this to be active at all times when playing the game -- not only because the notes you'll be playing won't sound anything like the song that's coming through your speakers (which is indescribably confusing) but also because letting your unstopped strings continue to reverberate sends false signals to the game, making it think you're trying to strum along to your own insanely fast rhythm, effectively killing your streak.
The second through sixth frets of the guitar are designated green, red, yellow, blue and orange, which you'll need to hold down and strum along with identically colored gems. Occasionally, you'll need to hold down and strum two colors simultaneously -- though, whether you're playing one note or two, the world's your oyster when it comes to which string you're holding down.
It is possible to turn on a "Power Chord mode" from the pause menu, which changes some of those prompts to simple, two-finger power chords. These can, at times, make the sound coming from your guitar emulate the song you're playing along with, albeit with three major drawbacks:
The original recording artist who created the song probably didn't play it using two-finger power chords
Even at the hardest difficulty in Power Chord mode, the game still throws plenty of multicolored gems at you, which won't sound like the song you're playing in the slightest
You'll only be able to hear the guitar if you're playing without the stopper, which makes the game register approximately a thousand false strums for every legitimate strum you perform
The game looks, feels and acts like a budget-priced title, which it very much isn't. The UI, seen in the video above, is hideous, not only for the guitarist, but for the band's other two-thirds, the drummer and singer. The character models, animations and backgrounds aren't much prettier, either.
The game's story mode sees you jumping between venues, where you'll play songs to attune your Mojo to that of rival bands, which have names like "Zhen" and "Riff Riders," in an attempt to end the reign of the totalitarian Headliner, who has banned public musical performances. Perhaps the game's only redeeming feature is that while you watch this incomprehensible story unfold through CD-I quality cutscenes, you'll become convinced that you're trapped in the throes of an incredibly vivid fever dream. Which might be fun, I guess.
Power Gig: Rise of the SixString is a dumbfounding product. It centers itself around a peripheral which is a real guitar, yet it doesn't allow the player to use the real guitar as if it were a real guitar. Instead, it settles for using a new toy to manipulate an old game -- but still manages to categorically fail at both. It's a near-unplayable mess of a rhythm title, released in the same month as two of the best entries the genre's ever seen.
It's not impossible to see how Power Gig might have had promise -- if only its creators had come up with a second half for their initial pitch.
This review is based on an Xbox 360 retail copy of Power Gig: Rise of the SixString provided by Seven45 Studios. The AirStrike drum peripheral was not provided, and not reviewed.