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Previously posted
John Orr talks about "Super Mario 3D Land," which is a great game, and "Spirit Camera," which is not. January 26, 2013
John Orr talks about OnLive's portable interface, and "Star Wars: The Old Republic." January 2012
Mixed feelings about 'Rocksmith'
It's the best of the guitar-based video games, but ...
January 27, 2013

I want to thank the fine people at Ubisoft for satisfying my long curiosity about their "Rocksmith" games.

They sent the game to Triviana, my son and chief games tester Riley and I both played it, and neither one of us liked it a lot.

Rocksmith

Dang. I really wanted to like this game, which is in some ways better than other guitar-oriented games such as "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band," in that it uses a real guitar instead of one of those plastic things with the buttons on the neck instead of strings.

The company offers bundle packages with the game and an inexpensive guitar, or you can just buy the game alone and plug in your own real guitar.

Nice!

I have played "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band" and found them fun in the way of any simple video game. You press buttons on plastic "guitar" and it makes things happen on the TV screen.

For an actual guitarist, which I happen to be, it's not that fun. Little room for musical improvisation, and the timing of hitting the notes is based on what happens on the screen, not what's happening with the music, and the lag is very annoying.

Rocksmith is better than that in some ways, and actually could turn out to be a way to learn to play guitar.

The game comes with little stickers to place on the neck of the guitar to help novice players find the right frets.

That was our first dispute. Riley wanted to use the stickers, I said no. We were playing on a Gibson 335 I've had for about 25 years. I bought it at a very good price way back when. These days, they cost a lot more (check out this especially pretty one at Amazon.com) and I'm not about to go putting stickers on the neck of my beloved guitar.

We pressed on without the stickers, and did have some fun with it.

It has a very nice and accurate guitar tuner built in, which is convenient (the ones guitarists use on stage tend to be kind of pricey), and makes for better game play.

And it starts very easy. Press this string on this fret and pluck that string when told to do so by the onscreen cues.

At that level, I found myself improvising riffs along with The Rolling Stones, on "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," which was kind of fun. Although I got behind on the game because I was doing that instead of doing the pluck, pluck, pluck for the game.

Ubisoft has made a lot of deals with a lot of bands for content for the game. A wide range of styles comes with the initial game, and users can buy packages of music for the game from many other bands. Really, That's kind of cool.

I was annoyed by the sound/visual lag, which is similar to the other "guitar"-based video games.

For Riley, there were two main problems, I think.

For one thing, lugging a heavy old Gibson 335 around is a lot different than shlepping a little chunk of mostly hollow plastic.

For another, pressing the plastic buttons on a toy guitar doesn't leave your fingertips screaming in agony, as does playing on the steel strings of a real electric guitar, until you build the callous that becomes part of every real guitarist.

Also, Riley is becoming a percussionist. He digs the drum kit in "Rock Band," and is actually studying percussion in his middle-school band class. So, Riley lost interest in "Rocksmith."

I think either of us might return to it again, both just for the general game play, and, in Riley's case, maybe to learn to play guitar; and in my case, maybe just to jam with the Stones again.



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