As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we bought the Guitar Hero game partly in the expectation that it would become a big hit in social situations.
We were right.
It has become a big hit with everyone who has been around and played it. It’s even fun watching others play it.
I’ve never owned a games console in my life. Despite vastly enjoying computer games, I have always thought that spending a whole heap of money on a computer-like device that serves only one purpose was a waste. And games on the PC are so much more flexible – the mouse is a much better controller for first person shooter, strategy and adventure games (my three favourite genres of game); people make great modifications for some popular titles, which you don’t get on a console; and it’s much easier to communicate over the net when you have a keyboard. In short, I use computers for so many things and while games are a priority for me, they don’t absolutely dominate my electronics purchasing decisions (obviously, since my last three computer purchases (between Tegan and I) were Macs, which are terrible for gaming).
So, it was something of a surprise that I bought a Playstation 2 on the weekend.
There is some context: my Windows PC is starting to die as far as gaming is concerned. I can’t play a lot of games created within the last couple of years and there’s some problem with the graphics card which causes it to over-heat terribly in hot weather rendering the screen un-watchable, shortly before my computer crashes. More to the point though, on Saturday I had just come off the most stressful fortnight at work I had ever experienced and was looking for some pure fun.
Enter Guitar Hero.
Guitar Hero is a game I’d had my eye on for a little while, particularly since having a test-play of it in JB Hi-Fi a month or two back. Even Tegan, while we were watching other people play it, thought it looked like great fun. The game has a really simple concept: the controller is like a miniature guitar, with 5 buttons on the neck (corresponding to frets on a normal guitar and notes in the game), it has a little bar that you move up and down to ‘strum’ and a whammy bar. As a song progresses in the game, you have to hit the right notes and strum in time with the music. The song sounds right and you get points when you hit the notes properly. Sounds simple, although playing it is a bit more complex, and there are lots of little, interesting touches here and there in the game which add to the overall effect – such as watching the antics of the ‘band’ you’re playing on stage and the audience reaction depending on whether you’re really rocking along, or failing miserably (going wild and booing, respectively).
Our rationale for buying it this weekend was to have some fun after a really dreary week, but our greater rationale is that we think it will be a really fun social game. For a number of years I used to whip out a game with friends called ‘You Don’t Know Jack’ (YDKJ). This was a really humorous and fun trivia game – a three player game on the computer which takes place in a TV show-like context. Everyone who played had enormous fun – it was always a hit at little gatherings. However, in recent years my Windows PC has been relegated out of sight to the study and I can’t play YDKJ on the Mac. We still have requests for it every now and then, but tend to play board games instead (like Settlers of Cataan, Puerto Rico and Munchkin). I think that Guitar Hero might well fill the gap left by the absence of YDKJ and provide an interactive game that can be played socially, that you can enjoy watching even if you’re not playing, that has a mildly competitive element and that’s just really great fun. The couple of our friends I’ve mentioned it to have also said that it sounds quite fun and they’re looking forward to playing it as well. And if we get Guitar Hero 2 when it comes out sometime this year, we might well have a second guitar to play it with and can get immersed in the collaborative mode that will be part of the sequel.
As for the game itself (and note, we own no other PS2 games) – it’s so much fun! It’s a great feeling when you hit the notes properly and feel yourself rocking along to great classics like ‘Smoke on the Water’ and ‘More Than a Feeling’. In fact, playing ‘More Than a Feeling’ (originally by Boston) for the first time last night was just about the most fun I’ve had in a game for a long time. Of course, when you completely stuff up a song it feels terrible – especially when you miss enough notes and can’t quite get yourself back on track or your fingers working properly and you fail the song entirely – as happened to Tegan last night (although she did recover the next time round and do quite well). Overall, I think the game still appeals to me more than Tegan – she never really had the aspirations to become a rock guitar god that I did, and even though it has been years since I played guitar, I find I still have some residual muscle memory in my left hand and I find it easier to move it into position over the ‘notes’ than does Tegan, therefore I find it easier to pick up new songs and therefore the whole game is more fun.
To those friends and family who find themselves at our place from time to time – we’re looking forward to sharing the fun with you.
I’ve been getting back into a bit of gaming on the computer and online over the last few days. Being without internet access and pretty busy over the previous few weeks meant that I hadn’t been doing much gaming, so it was pretty fun to get back into it.
So, I’ve been playing the Halo demo, Jedi Outcast, Battlefield 1942 and Max Payne. Here’s some observations: