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April Fool's: Harmonix announces Cowbell Hero

Chris Walken names self producer for upcoming Guitar Hero follow-up; track list to feature Huey Lewis performing GWAR, LL Cool J covers.


APRIL 1--After the breakthrough success of last year's Guitar Hero, developer Harmonix promptly went to work on a proper sequel for its rhythm-genre rocker.

"We had a ton of ideas right out of the gate," explained Harmonix producer Roger Stantonz. "Just the features we wound up cutting from the original game would have made for enough innovations for the sequel. It's really kind of a shame that we had to scrap it."

Shortly after Guitar Hero's meteoric rise to the middle of the sales charts, Stantonz was contacted by famed actor Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter, The Country Bears). Walken informed him that Harmonix's next project would not be a Guitar Hero sequel but would instead be a spin-off called Cowbell Hero.

"It was off-putting to say the least," Stantonz recalls. "I mean, you go through life watching this guy's movies, and he's a major star and you pray every night before you go to bed that you never meet him, and the next thing you know he's calling you up on your unlisted home number at 4 a.m. one Sunday morning and he's telling you how to do your job."

Stantonz said there was a bad connection, and the phone company dropped the call at first. Walken remembers it differently.

"He thought I was some kind of a crank caller and hung up on me," Walken said. "I did not appreciate that discourtesy, so I called back and let him know this in no uncertain terms. Long story short, Mr. Stantonz saw merit in my argument that there was no market for a sequel to Guitar Hero, and that his next game should, in fact, be Cowbell Hero. I do believe that, if anything, this world is in dire need of more cowbell."

True to his word, Stantonz showed up at work bright and early that Monday, ready to start work on the game. "When I came in, he was already hard at work on the game, which is odd, because I'm the one who unlocks the front door each morning. All the lights were off and he was just sitting there at my workstation, staring intently at the screen."

Walken had indeed been busy over the weekend, constructing a prototype Cowbell Hero controller using a simplified version of the Guitar Hero interface. The cowbell itself will have one button on the side of the bell, which players will have to strike in time with the music as the on-screen cues indicate. Walken's design document calls for a multiplayer mode, but Stantonz has yet to work out a feasible way to make Walken's "Duelin' Cowbells" vision a reality.

Like Guitar Hero, the game will include a track list of songs practically synonymous with the instrument. With the exception of the song "Heart and Soul" by Huey Lewis and the News, all songs will be performed by a soundalike cover artist. Due to budgetary constraints, Harmonix has decided that the cover artist will also be Huey Lewis. The full list of songs included in the game is as follows:

-Bachman-Turner Overdrive - "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet"
-Black Crowes - "Gone"
-Blue Oyster Cult - "Don't Fear the Reaper"
-Climax Blues Band - "Couldn't Get it Right"
-Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Down on the Corner"
-David Bowie - "Diamond Dogs"
-Dan Fogelberg - "The Language of Love"
-Dream Theater - "Caught in a Web"
-Grand Funk Railroad - "We're an American Band"
-Grateful Dead - "Touch of Grey"
-GWAR - "Rock 'n' Roll Never Felt So Good"
-Hall and Oates - "Private Eyes"
-Huey Lewis & The News - "Heart and Soul"
-LL Cool J - "Rock the Bells"
-Mountain - "Mississippi Queen"
-Nazareth - "Hair of the Dog"
-Peaches & Herb - "Shake Your Groove Thing"
-The Refreshments - King of the Hill theme
-Santana - "Oye Como Va?"
-Skid Row - "Monkey Business"
-Strawberry Alarm Clock - "Incense and Peppermint"
-Stealers Wheel - "Stuck in the Middle With You"
-Twisted Sister - "We're Not Gonna Take It"
-War - "Low Rider"
-Yes - "Owner of a Lonely Heart"

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