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Hands & Vocals-on: Rock Revolution (DS)


We don't know what to make of Konami's DS version of Rock Revolution. The PS3/360 version is pretty easily summed up: it's Rock Band + a ridiculous drum - a functional GUI. While Rock Revolution screams "me too" on the home consoles, it's a rather innovative concept for Nintendo DS. Shouldn't that be commended?

Perhaps, but the ambitious concept is marred by lackluster execution. Rock Revolution DS gives players different ways of playing for the drums, guitars and yes, vocals. For better or worse, Konami has opted not to include a Guitar Hero-esque peripheral with its game, relying exclusively on touch-screen controls for the guitar sections of the game. Unfortunately, this turns out to be a rather uninvolved process. Icons appear from the top left and right of the screen, with arrows pointing in the direction the player should swipe their stylus. That's it. Even in the more challenging difficulties, swiping the stylus up and down gets plain ol' tiresome after a while.

The drums in Rock Revolution DS also mimic the console game's six-pad setup ... right down to the relentless difficulty. In this mode, color coded icons appear on the top screen, and players must hit the appropriate drum on the bottom screen. Unfortunately, this mode has inherited the console game's lackluster GUI, with an amateurish virtual drum design and illegible icons that make gameplay more difficult than it should be. The incredible disparity between easy and medium difficulties must also be noted: while the easy difficulty is borderline catatonic, the medium difficult sends a flurry of almost indecipherable notes that led us to near instant failure. Where's the middle ground? How will players make the transition from these wildly differing modes?

Gallery: Rock Revolution (DS) | 10 Photos

The real star of Rock Revolution has to be the vocals, which is suspiciously absent from the console version of the game. It works exactly as it should -- a relief considering the quality of Rock Revolution's other offerings. The interface should be familiar to anyone who has played a karaoke game on a console, whether it be Rock Band, SingStar, or Konami's own Karaoke Revolution. The game will display a scrolling line of lyrics and pitch, and players must sing along. We were surprised that the detection was fairly accurate, and that even quiet singing was recognized by the game.

Of course, that raises the all-important question: do gamers want to look like crazy-people singing into their DS systems on the go? It's certainly the most original and best executed part of the Rock Revolution package on the DS. We wish Konami would scrap the Rock Revolution game and simply make a good karaoke game on DS/PSP. (We may regret suggesting this, once we see dozens of moms on subway trains singing "Oops I Did It Again" aloud on their morning commute.)

We love the idea of Rock Revolution on the DS -- we really do. However, we can't ignore the game's inability to create an experience that feels right for the DS. Guitar Hero overcame these obstacles by using a peripheral. Games like Elite Beat Agents and Rhythm Heaven try to create unique experiences on the handheld. Too bad Rock Revolution isn't able to do the same.

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