PlayStation 2 owners were bummed when they had to wait an extra month for the greatness of Rock Band, but that's nothing compared to the seven months Wii owners have had to endure. Despite the lengthy period between the release of the PS2 and Wii iterations, the two games are mostly identical to each other. The Wii doesn't have online play and lacks most of the customization options of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but it still lets you and three friends form a band to rock the night away--and that's the important thing.
Rock Band includes a wireless guitar, drum kit, and microphone. The game supports a second guitar for bass parts, but you'll have to purchase it separately (FYI: the Guitar Hero 3 controller doesn't work). To use all four instruments at once you'll need to plug the included USB adapter into the Wii and then hook the instruments and wireless dongles into the adapter. For a detailed breakdown on how each instrument works and gameplay specifics, refer to our review of the PlayStation 2 game here. Other than the drum kit now being white and the pads feeling a bit softer and bouncier, there doesn't appear to be much of a difference between the Wii hardware and other versions--the instruments are responsive and feel great. While we experienced no problems with the hardware during the course of reviewing the Wii game, it's worth mentioning that previous versions of Rock Band have had issues with hardware reliability that often weren't initially apparent.
There's plenty to do if you're a solo act (you can sing, drum, or strum along to any song), but Rock Band is a game best played with friends. Even without the ability to customize the appearance of individual band members and despite the fact that you can no longer travel the world earning new fans, equipment, and money, it's tremendous amounts of fun to come up with a name for your band, argue over song selection, activate overdrive at the same time, blame bandmates for messing up the end of songs, and swap instruments between tunes. The game mirrors the band experience so closely that nobody wants to be the bass player. Now that's realism!
Rock Band's tracklist features a great mix of songs that includes classic rock, punk, '80s rock, alternative, and modern rock. Most of the songs are performed by the original artists, though there are a few covers. There's music from the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, KISS, Bon Jovi, R.E.M., The Who, Weezer, Stone Temple Pilots, Radiohead, Beastie Boys, Soundgarden, and many more. There are a total of 63 songs, five more than in previous releases. The five new songs are "Roxanne" by The Police, The B-52's "Roam," "Dirty Little Secret" from the All-American Rejects, Oasis' "Don't Look Back in Anger," and "Rockaway Beach" by The Ramones. The Wii version has no online play, nor does it have the option to download tracks. However, starting in July you'll be able to purchase a disc that includes 20 songs that were previously available as downloadable content on the PS3 and 360. It's not the ideal way to get new tunes, but it's better than nothing.
The visuals aren't impressive, but they're functional and the frame rate is steady. When you aren't too busy rocking, you'll see that while the virtual band that rocks in the background looks pretty cool, they're nothing more than footage of prerendered characters. They don't react in real-time, and because there's only one pre-made video for song, you'll tire of seeing the same routine repeatedly. It's too bad, because seeing your customized characters own the stage was a blast on the 360 and PS3, and it was amusing to see the goofy photographs of your band in the load screens in those versions.
But it's not that important for a music game to look good; it's supposed to sound good. For the most part, Rock Band sounds terrific. The cover songs are generally very well done, and some of them, like "Train Kept a Rollin," are amazingly true to the original. If you don't have a stereo hooked up to your Wii, you're missing out. This is a game that's best played loud. The only (minor) gripes are things you probably won't notice if you haven't played the Xbox 360 or PS3 versions--the crowd is lively but doesn't sing along, and the effects that you can use on the guitar during solos and overdrive don't sound very good (though the normal guitar sounds just fine).
Thanks to a lack of online play and a stripped-down feature set, the Wii version of Rock Band isn't the best one available. But that doesn't mean it's not a great game; it absolutely is. Whether you're a lone rocker or have more band members than Parliament Funkadelic, there are dozens of hours of entertainment to be found here. Short of signing with a shady manager, developing a substance abuse problem, and dying tragically young in some sort of transit accident, there's no better way to live the life of a rock star.