No matter how you look at it, it's obvious that the rhythm genre has witnessed better days. Last year, we saw both Guitar Hero and Rock Band slow down in terms of sales, with Activision going so far as to significantly cut the number of Guitar Hero games on its 2010 release schedule. But those cloudy skies haven't scared off an upstart developer by the name of Seven45 Studios. The recently established Boston shop is currently working on a new entry in the rhythm genre called Power Gig: Rise of the SixString, a game due out for release later this year that uses a very unique guitar peripheral.
The difference between Power Gig's guitar and those found in other games boils down to one key feature: it's a fully functioning electric guitar. Before you ever sync it with your console, you can simply plug in an audio cable from the guitar to an amplifier and strum away on six real strings to create what is (hopefully) beautiful, beautiful music. The size is more akin to a scaled-down Rock Band guitar than a standard electric, but it's functional as one nonetheless.
But, of course, it also works as a video game controller. Thanks to some clever engineering work, the team at Seven45 (who, we should probably mention, also designed the hardware) has been able to get the guitar working as a game peripheral without the need for clicky fret buttons. A collection of five real frets are colored according to the genre's universally adapted standards (green on one end, orange on the other). You don't need to press a button, because the guitar can simply tell which fret you've got your finger on and the point at which you strum the string.
The whole setup works similarly to other rhythm games when you're playing on the default setting. You see notes scrolling down the screen, and you play them when they hit the bottom. Easy as that. But with enough time, you'll eventually graduate to chording mode. This option transforms the experience to something pretty new within the realm of rhythm games. You see notes coming down with numbers on them, with the numbers suggesting the placement of secondary fingers on the strings. Suddenly, you're now playing real, honest to goodness power chords. And once again, the guitar can tell the notes you're playing without the need for typical button-pushing.
That's how the guitar hardware works. Seven45 is also working on a drum peripheral that it claims will be just as unique as the guitar, but we won't be seeing that device until the Electronic Entertainment Expo. As far as how the game itself runs, the brief gameplay we were shown wasn't trying to do too much: while the song plays, a number of stylized musicians patrol the stage in time with the music. The one area the team is trying to focus on to differentiate the game is the career mode, which will tell a proper story from start to finish. Details are scarce, but Seven45 was keen to mention the transformative power of rock and roll as being one of the key themes. Expect to see our impressions of that drum peripheral when E3 rolls around in June. The final game is expected to arrive this fall on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.