Ever since the wild success of LEGO Star Wars, there's been no escaping the LEGO-ized versions of popular franchises, but never in a million blocks did I think they would build something around the music game genre. But does it rock?
If you want to get pre-teens or younger children into the music games, this is the one to do it with. Every effort has been made to make it accessible to tikes who just want to beat on the drums or wail into a microphone. It's super easy. That's what the new lowest difficulty is called, and it lives up to its name. On guitar you just need to strum without worrying about the frets, for drums just bang any pad to the beat, and all singing takes is making sound at the right moments. No more worries about being off key. If your family band still loses the crowd, you won't actually fail the song. You'll just lose your accumulated studs (the game's currency), and have to hit the next notes correctly to get them back. So you can face difficulties harder than your used to without having to worry about starting over, or go through the various training modes to improve on your skills. Don't have the attention span for a full song? Most tunes also have shorter versions, which also helps fitting in more rock into a busy schedule.
Already experienced Rock Band players should probably pass on LRB, especially considering the absence of online play, but for casuals and kids LEGO Rock Band is their best bet.
Parents are going to need the time. One thing the game does wrong, especially considering younger players, is so much of the content is locked from the start. You'll unlock a few things with every song you play, but you still have to spend your precious points before you can actually use them. Combined with the awkward interface and too many loading screens, getting through the tour mode gets to be a chore near the end. Once the parents have slogged through this, the kids can have fun assembling their own LEGO band, complete with LEGO roadies and gear, from many crazy parts. There's even a random button that results in some truly nutty combinations, like a well dressed wolfman or a punked out racecar driver. It's a shame this customization doesn't extend more to the rest of the game. You can add a few decorations to your rock den, but there's so few of these. There's a ton of stages and tour vehicles, but they can't be built or customized in any way. Less in number and more customization would have been much better, and more fun for everyone.
The song list is very mixed. There's some greats like 'Kung Fu Fighting,' a good chunk of tunes you probably never heard of but are a joy to play, and a few I never, ever want to hear again. I can stand all the emo the game throws at me, which is more than a few, but if I have to play 'Summer of '69' one more time, I might just have to kill myself. Though whatever your musical tastes, there just isn't enough of it. Forty five songs fill the disk, and some of those are locked from the start. Venues have between two to four songs a piece, then force you into song selections, random lists, and the occasional challenge to make up for the game's length. I have all of the original Rock Band songs and some downloads on my hard drive, and I still ended up playing the same tunes too often in story mode. The selection is actually reduced, since the game blocks any songs not considered family friendly, though when Moonage Daydream is blocked and Blitzkrieg Bop isn't, it feels pretty arbitrary. There is much more to buy in the Rock Band store, including a bunch of Spongebob Squarepants for the kiddies at only a buck a tune.
Inspiration songs feature LEGO versions of the original artists, from Queen, to David Bowie, to Iggy Pop. This adds an extra layer of humor to the already amusing stage shows, where LEGO rockers leap and jam to the grooving LEGO crowd, and occasionally LEGO pigs and penguins. Every odd location is here, from a haunted house to domed stage deep under the sea. Some are more animated than others, but where things really kick into high is during the rock challenges. Here the band is facing some looming disaster, and the only solution is rock out to an appropriate tune, like evading a rampaging T-Rex to 'Monster,' or driving off a giant octopus by jamming to 'So Deep.' The crazy animations, complete with intro movies, are great fun to watch. So it's a relief to both eyes and wrists that in this mode the various band members take turns. Popping in and out of a song adds a pretty cool dynamic to the Rock Band formula, and while it's great for kids who want to watch their LEGO creations defend a castle from rampaging trolls, it's also a blast at parties. It's one of a half dozen features in LEGO Rock Band that I hope makes the jump to RB3.
Already experienced Rock Band players should probably pass on LRB, especially considering the absence of online play, but for casuals and kids LEGO Rock Band is their best bet. Just as long as someone is willing to do all the tour mode leg work for them, and pony up for a little DLC to fatten up the song list.