E3 2008: Rock Revolution - Hands-On With the DS Version

We tap, slide, and sing our way to DS digital stardom in Konami's new music game.


Konami is getting into the rock rhythm game business and bringing Rock Revolution to the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, and Nintendo DS. In addition to rocking out on other platforms, we sat down with the DS version at Konami's E3 2008 booth and put each instrument through its paces. Drums, guitar, and bass all require fancy stylus handling, and vocals use the DS microphone to detect your pitch as you sing your heart out. That's a lot of rock in a small package.

Rock Revolution tracks the progress of your average astronomically successful rock band, starting in a friend's basement and ending in a massive arena full of thousands of screaming fans. You'll work your way through the robust track list that includes diverse hits like "Blitzkrieg Bop," "Detroit Rock City," "Spoonman," and "Sk8er Boi." These songs are also available for on-the-go listening in Rock Revolution's Media Player, so you can enjoy them without actively playing them.

Playing instruments is a matter of swiping and tapping the stylus on the touch screen while your avatar wails away on the top screen. The drums, like the physical peripheral for other platforms, consist of six pads that represent cymbals and drums. The notes scroll horizontally along the top of the bottom screen, and you tap the six areas in time with the beat. Keeping an eye on the scrolling symbols while keeping track of which pads are where is initially tricky, but as you become familiar with the layout it begins to feel more comfortable.

When you play guitar, an image of an actual guitar appears onscreen. There's a large circle drawn around the area where a real guitarist would strum the strings, and this is the area where you'll need to swipe the stylus up or down, depending on the symbols. Up and down arrows fly into this circle from the top corners of the screen, and you have to strum appropriately when they enter the circle. Some speed variation and tricky alternation increase the challenge here, but this is tempered somewhat by the fact that you always strum in the same area.

The bass is a different story. It requires you to strum one of four horizontal strings that stretch across the screen. Up and down arrows will scroll across each of these strings, and you'll have to strum each icon as it arrives on the left side of the screen. It can be tough to track them all, especially if you're right-handed and trying to avoid blocking the screen. Though the challenge is stiffer, the success is more satisfying, and for that reason Rock Revolution for the DS might be one of the first games where people choose bass over guitar.

Rounding out the band is the vocals, which have you singing into the DS microphone. The area we played in was too loud to really try out this feature, but aspiring lead singers will be happy to know that there is a tonal training tool that instructs you in how to properly match pitch. This will hopefully make it easier to belt out solos, providing you can find a place to play where such activity isn't frowned upon.

Rock Revolution will also support multiplayer, though we weren't able to try that on for size. The audio was noticeably compressed, but the overall quality was quite impressive, given the range of instruments. You certainly won't feel like you're in an actual rock band while playing Rock Revolution, but it is shaping up to be an engaging rhythm challenge. With varied gameplay and a good variety of songs, Rock Revolution could turn out to be an entertaining DS game. Check back for more coverage as we try to squeeze in a multiplayer session in the coming months, if not sooner.

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