Guitar Hero: On Tour Hands-On

We see how well strumming with a stylus pick on the DS touch screen really works.

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Most of the recent buzz about the Guitar Hero franchise has centered on Guitar Hero: World Tour. After all, introducing the first game in the series with multiple instruments has a tendency to stir up a variety of reactions among the Guitar Hero faithful. But lest you forget, there's another tour being planned by Activision and RedOctane. This one's a little smaller, a little more modest, and certainly a bit friendlier on the wallet. We got to play the game in question, Guitar Hero: On Tour, when Activision rolled into San Francisco this week for a GH-focused press event. This Vicarious Visions-developed game on the DS features a four-button peripheral, which plugs into the Game Boy Advance slot, letting you strum with the help of a stylus-tipped guitar pick. Though it took us a bit of time to figure out the hand placement least likely to result in painful cramping, the guitar playing itself works surprisingly well.

You’ll be strumming on the right screen, but most of your attention will fall on the left screen’s note highway.

When you first pick up Guitar Hero: On Tour, you might be a little confused. The included fret peripheral is an odd little attachment. For one, you've got a pair of options for how you should hold it. There's a strap that goes over your entire hand, complete with adjustable Velcro to help get a good fit. But if that's a little too tight for your liking, there's also a simple thumb loop. It's easier on the hand, but you'll need to keep a better grip on the DS itself.

Once you figure out the best way to hold it, you'll want to slide out the guitar pick from the little compartment built into the grip. The pick itself is slightly larger, thicker, and sturdier than a regular guitar pick. It's made of rubber rather than plastic, so it's easier to hold onto it. The biggest difference, however, is the fact that the tip of the pick has a small stylus on it. This is how you'll be doing the strumming.

When you get the game going, you've got the option to jump into Quickplay mode, start a new career, do a guitar duel, or learn the basics in Tutorial mode. When we first got the chance to play On Tour, we were feeling pretty confident, so rather than study up in a Tutorial, we went right for Quickplay. This ended up being the right decision because the basic mechanics are very similar to what you've seen in previous Guitar Hero games. There are a few differences when it comes to the hardware, but for the most part, the basic experience is much the same: There are four difficulty levels; Career mode lets you unlock songs one tier at a time, and the Guitar Duel mode features the same multiplayer mayhem from Guitar Hero III's Battle mode.

The standard configuration has you holding the grip in your left hand, keeping the DS angled sideways with the touch screen on the right and the normal screen on the left. The touch screen shows a guitar, which is where you'll be doing the strumming. The left screen shows the familiar note highway, and this is where you'll be looking for the vast majority of the song. What you're essentially doing with the pick is sliding it across the pictured strings rather than clicking down on the regular guitar controller. You can still whammy, which is done by holding the pick down on the screen then moving it back and forth. When it comes to star power, you've got a bit of choice. You can blow into the microphone, shout your rocking phrase of choice, or if you're on the bus and don't want to look like a complete loon, you can just tap the star power icon on the touch screen.

But as we said, the core mechanics feel very familiar. The first song we tried was "All the Small Things" by Blink-182. We went with this one to let the up-tempo pop-punk strumming act as a test for the touch-screen's responsiveness. Sure enough, despite the lightning-quick procession of chords, we were able to stay afloat with the new pick. In fact, the way the strumming works in the game gives you a fair amount of freedom to play the songs. At first, we were banging out these chords with a series of quick down-strokes, but we soon discovered we could cut our workload in half by alternating up and down.

Characters from previous GH games make their return in On Tour.

This first song left us pleasantly surprised with the new portable Guitar Hero configuration. The strumming responds to a variety of subtle techniques and the buttons don't feel too cramped. However, we soon ran into a problem with the hardware: The "You're rocking too hard!" error message. This happens when the guitar grip pops out of the GBA slot. The big downer is that it doesn't just force you to pause; you actually have to restart the game. But this only happened when we were using the full strap. Once we discovered the thumb loop, the grip felt more natural and we didn't run into this problem.

Overall, Guitar Hero On: Tour looks like it could surprise a few people. It's obviously not the same experience you'll have playing with a guitar controller in front of an HDTV, but what Vicarious Visions has done with the new touch-screen strumming and grip should offer a nice experience for players aching to get their Guitar Hero fix on the go. The main sticking point people are likely to have with the game is the sound quality, which has been noticeably compressed due to hardware limitations. And while sound of the music is a key consideration in a music game, at least the developers have gone through the trouble of stuffing the soundtrack with plenty of fresh songs, with 20 of the game's 25 tracks being brand new.

Guitar Hero: On Tour is just about ready to hit stores, with a release date scheduled for June 22. You can expect to see our review right around that time.

Discussion

80 comments
soldier305
soldier305

i got it for christmas and this game is awsome!!! if guitar hero wasnt fun enough, now you can play it on the go!!! good amount of songs, fun gameplay, cool features. i gotta say i love the whole "on tour" thing on a portable rock n' roll game!!! lol BUY THIS GAME!!!

bush66
bush66

I'm glad they decided to mix up the song list for this game instead of reusing all the songs from gh3.

Dark-Phoenix93
Dark-Phoenix93

No the game comes with an adapter that you can use to play with the original DS.

acdcboy40
acdcboy40

do you need ds lite or does the original ds still work

The_Noah101
The_Noah101

Here's the believed setlist: This list in order by teir, then the song name followed by the band name. also songs with an "X"after it means the song is a master recording. Guitar Hero: On Tour Setlist Tier 1: The Subway All the Small Things- Blink 182 X Are You Gonna Be My Girl- Jet X Do What You Want- Ok Go X Spiderwebs- No Doubt X We're Not Gonna Take It- Twisted Sister X Teir 2: Rooftop All Star- Smash Mouth X Breed- Nirvana X Hit Me With Your Best Shot- Pat Benatar X Jessie's Girls- Rickspringfield X This Love- Maroon 5 X Teir 3: Parade China Grove- The Doobie Brothers X Heaven- Los Lonely Boys X Helicopter- Bloc Party X Rock and Roll All Nite- Kiss What I Want- Daughtry featuring Slash X Teir 4: Greek Arena Black Magic Woman- Santana Jet Airliner- Steve Millir Band La Grange- ZZ Top Stray Cat Strut- Stray Cats X Youth Gone Wild- Skid Row Teir 5: Ozzfest Anna Molly- Incubus X Rock the Night- Europe X Pride and Joy- Steve Ray Vaughn X I Don't Wanna Stop- Ozzy Osbourne X

CCGR_Pheonix
CCGR_Pheonix

Looks good. I may pick it up next month.

Jshaw71
Jshaw71

sounds ok, i think i might pick this up, i hope it will be worth it, did i miss the part where they said can be played with nintendo wifi? is there going to be onplay, too bad theres no dlc, but they can't store the songs anywhere...

Aleks-619
Aleks-619

Considering it´s gonna be a DS game, 25 us great, if you see the graphics there are no to bad, it´s and excelent game. For the left hands, don´t worry, there is no game without the options of use left or right hand. So yeah, is gonna a be the game for the rest of the year for Nintendo DS, and i hope that in the future are gonna apper mor GH for DS 10-4...aleks

Killer2401
Killer2401

rei, you bring up a good point: what about lefties? My guess is that you would simply rotate the DS around and set a left setting in one of the menus.

slycooper2000
slycooper2000

you can buy it at wal-mart right now. the buttons are smaller than they appear in the pictures...about the size of your pinkey finger nail

slycooper2000
slycooper2000

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

danevati
danevati

This game looks awesome, but the grafics are soooooooooo awefull. but i will buy it because i allways loved guitar hero.

Leick3
Leick3

remember than this IS a portable game and its not even trying to compete with GHIII. Im going to judge it in its own right and not compared to other games in the series. And 25 songs isnt bad considering that this game is much cheaper than other GH games and they fit everything on the tiny DS chip. Also the reason for this coming out on DS and not PSP is simply because of fanbase, the ratio of DS's to PSP's is astronomically in nintendo's favor

Ben_Farnsworth
Ben_Farnsworth

25 full songs is a decent amount to cram into a tiny little DS card. I mean, it's obviously not nearly as many as on the next-gen systems but boo-hoo. It's still way more than Elite Beat Agents had, and that game was awesome.

rei2099400
rei2099400

interesting, but i'm left handed, so will i be left out completely again?

joetorious212
joetorious212

toys r us stores are hosting demos to try it out ...or at least the one i work at. it was actually much better than i thought it would be, but the difficulty seems a bit too easy for guitar hero faithfuls (just from trying the demo) and only having 25 songs sucks. and to help the sound out we plugged it in through one the tvs, it also works well with headphones.

Brawler100
Brawler100

I think this will be good and all for the ds, but even if the companies have limitations for hardware, 25 songs doesn't make a Guitar Hero even if it is new songs. It still will do good.

fatcat13sep
fatcat13sep

tpaul37 is right they should put it on the psp it could have more songs and i got a half way done theory of how they could do it attach the buttons to the usb slot

tpaul37
tpaul37

they should do this for psp, im not really shure how that would work though

iiikkk
iiikkk

I think the game is cool...but it only have 4 bottoms so it looks very easy...but maybe its not that simple

iiikkk
iiikkk

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

necronaux
necronaux

I hope they can work out an in-store demo, so I can try it before I buy it. With the current download centers and demos, the DS systems are secured by a bracket that locks over the GBA slot.

stoneyjack
stoneyjack

i remember when i first heard about, i thought it was a joke

rambo_2k8
rambo_2k8

looks ace deffo getting this, its what the ds needs.

TrueProphecy22
TrueProphecy22

Well, it's interesting. Can't say it's something I would pick up if its price tag is over a regular DS game though... $40 and I might get it, any higher and I'll pass. And deadstarr... if you use a screen cover, you won't be getting any scratches..

gameknight147
gameknight147

Wow. Can't wait to get even more GH in my life lol

score89
score89

I think this will be the worst GH of all, even worst than GH rock the '80s

deadstarr
deadstarr

Meh, 25 songs blows. plus the fact it will **** up the touch screen with the amount of scratches it'll be getting. Added to that the fact that there's no DLC makes for a poor purchase. I'll stick to GH3 :)

HardcoreBunni
HardcoreBunni

I think that the track list is too reduced an unlike the console versions, you can't download new songs. I'm curious about this game but I probably won't buy it.

sheepradish
sheepradish

DUDE GH ON TOUR=OMG and yadish it does work on phat DS's dude lol

antoss
antoss

i am haaangin to buy this game.a portable guitar hero omg that is just pure genius. 22nd of july

Yadish
Yadish

It can't work on the DS phat though... :(

Aleks-619
Aleks-619

Damn look like a lot fun, i can´t wait to get it

copp62
copp62

this game looks awsome!! this is something rock band will never be able to do

sun_spirit
sun_spirit

Sounds fun, will be glad to take GH around with me! :)

ttime32
ttime32

when i heard that guitar hero was coming out for the ds i was like ya right ... but now looking at the setup they have it looks quite cool for a handheld game

mitsman
mitsman

I just started playing GH on X360 recently, that being my first experience with the GH genre, and I'm totally hooked! I hated having to leave it behing when I'll be on vacation, but now it looks like I'll have something to do during the idle hours of the summer days... I might still look like a loon to the older people in my village though when I'll be shouting "SCREAM FOR ME" for star power :)

saibot05
saibot05

I think I'm gonna be crushing my DS when I keep playing it... Nonetheless, it looks sick

Whellock
Whellock

It looks good to be quite honest!

lukedown99
lukedown99

Sounds good i like it being portable

Sins-of-Mosin
Sins-of-Mosin

So, about the same visual quality as the Wii? :D

noirsake
noirsake

im worryed about being lefty...I guess i will just have to buy a REAL guitar

canialblasm
canialblasm

what about lefty flip, will it work on the ds?