The New iPhone Rock Band App Performs Even Better Than We’d Thought

Well, the preview of Electronic Arts’ iPhone rendition of Rock Band looked great two weeks ago, and its recent release didn’t disappoint. Put bluntly, if you have $10 to spend on an iPhone app, and you like music, then this is worth every penny.

The game is everything one would expect from a Rock Band game. While it’s slimmed down for the iPhone platform, it holds much of the original rhythm-based play that made its console counterparts such a phenomena. The visuals are fantastic, the music is fun and popular (see the set list below), and comes with a myriad of play modes (Quick Play, World Tour, and so on), that veteran users will be familiar with.

In addition to the more superfluous similarities, the biggest consistency is the inclusion of all four instruments. As was seen in the preview, there is the guitar, bass, and drums. However, it wasn’t until now that the vocals are clearly available. Unfortunately, the singing is a bit of a disappointment as the lyrics are not actually sung but tapped as notes scroll by from right to left. Granted, singing on an iPhone would probably look a bit odd in a public area… and the majority of console players require a bit of liquid courage to pick up the microphone anyway… but it goes to show that you don’t know what you have until it is gone.

Despite the disheartening vocals, the rest of the instruments are relatively the same. Obviously there are no peripherals, so this means frets are tapped as they scroll down the screen. Unlike its Tap Tap Revenge 3 competition, however, Rock Band carries on with the tradition of that cacophonous sounding bad note when you miss a beat and ceases to play that part of the track until you are back in rhythm. It does seem minor, yes, but having that penalty really adds a great deal of satisfaction when a player does well in a game.

With the lack of a plastic guitar and/or drums, not to mention reduced screen real estate, the game lacks the expert mode that many users may be used to. However, considering the reduction of four fingers to two thumbs, that doesn’t seem like a bad thing. It’s actually… quite difficult sometimes. Suffice to say, the point-boosting “overdrive” mode becomes more than useful in remedying this issue.

Where the game truly shines is its multiplayer modes. Utilizing Facebook Connect (and push notification), players can pick an instrument and play a song, then send that score to a friend. However, rather than simply compete for high scores, the friend can select a different instrument, play and add their score to yours. But wait, there’s more.

Since cooperative play is perhaps the most addictive element to any of the Rock Band titles, a band mate is never out of reach. Players can also opt to connect with random people via the app, and combine scores in a similar fashion.

As fun as this asynchronous multiplayer is, it still gets better. The real magic comes into play, with synchronous local multiplayer. Utilizing Bluetooth, four players can play together in real-time, and unlike competing rhythm titles, works, surprisingly, well. Okay, so it isn’t the same without the plastic instruments and the, ahem, slightly intoxicated singer, but it is still a lot of fun. Honestly, the only complaint is that the music sometimes gets out of sync for each phone.

Currently, Rock Band for the iPhone comes with 20 included songs, with 15 available at the start and another five that must be unlocked through World Tour mode. In addition to this, the game is designed with virtual goods purchases in mind allowing a handful of songs, that come in sets of two, to be bought for $0.99. You can check out the full set list below:

Track List:

  • 30 Seconds To Mars – “Attack”
  • AFI – “Girls Not Grey”
  • All American Rejects – “Move Along”
  • Beastie Boys – “Sabotage”
  • Blink-182 – “All The Small Things”
  • Blondie – “Hanging on the Telephone”
  • Foo Fighters – “Learn To Fly”
  • Foo Fighters – “Everlong”
  • George Thorogood & the Destroyers – “Bad to The Bone”
  • Jethro Tull – “Hymn 43″
  • Joan Jett – “Bad Reputation″
  • Lynard Skynyrd – “Simple Man”
  • Motorhead – “Ace of Spades ‘08″
  • Pixies – “Debaser”
  • Presidents of The United States of America – “Ladybug”
  • Rise Against – “Give It All”
  • Silversun Pickups – “Lazy Eye”
  • Smashing Pumpkins – “Cherub Rock”
  • Steve Miller Band – “Take The Money and Run”
  • The Go Go’s – “We Got The Beat”