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Guitar Hero: On Tour (DS) artwork

Guitar Hero: On Tour (DS) review

"Just when you thought Activision couldn’t milk the Guitar Hero franchise anymore, they go on and make a handheld version of the plastic guitar rhythm-based game. Aside from Harmonix’s Phase for the iPod, one would wonder how a handheld Guitar Hero would work. Well, you’d include a mini fret board, utilize some of the DS’s features, slap on a $50 price point and voila, Guitar Hero: On Tour is born. "

Just when you thought Activision couldn’t milk the Guitar Hero franchise anymore, they go on and make a handheld version of the plastic guitar rhythm-based game. Aside from Harmonix’s Phase for the iPod, one would wonder how a handheld Guitar Hero would work. Well, you’d include a mini fret board, utilize some of the DS’s features, slap on a $50 price point and voila, Guitar Hero: On Tour is born.

Before you start rocking out, you have to insert the fret board into the GBA slot of the DS. Then you take out the guitar pick stylus and slide your hand through the hand strap. You hold the DS sideways like in the Brain Age games, with the touch screen being on the side of your dominant hand and your non-dominant hand wraps around the whole backside of the DS. It feels really awkward at first and you’ll inevitably get some major wrist/hand aches after a play session.

Once you got your hands set up, you’ll be ready to play. Like typical Guitar Hero fare, you start off by going through Career Mode and naming your band and selecting your character. Like in Guitar Hero III, the character limit is short so I’m unable to use my preferred name of “Enflamed Nads.” Anyway, you’ll work your way through the game’s five tiers in typical Guitar Hero fashion. The game plays fairly similar to the console versions with some changes. Most notably is the omission of the orange fret, leaving the fret board with only four buttons: green, red, yellow, blue. However, the game still manages to have some tricky solos despite one less button to push.

Stroking the stylus against the touch screen is used for both strumming and whammy barring. The notes scroll down the other screen and you have to press the corresponding fret and strum as it reaches the bottom. Star Power is back and you can activate it by either yelling into the microphone or simply blowing into it. The gameplay is what you expect from a Guitar Hero game, and the controls work pretty well, despite the agonizing hand pains you’ll feel after playing through a couple of songs.

Upon completing career mode, you’ll have a total of 25 tracks. The track list is a hodgepodge of good and bad. There are some tunes from other iterations such as “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” by Jet and “All the Small Things” by Blink-182. But on the other hand, On Tour includes All-Star by Smash Mouth. If we were still in the year 2000, then that song might have been cool. But all pale in comparison to the awesomeness that is “I Am Not Your Game Boy” by Freezepop, the bonus song and main selling point for me.

The only way to unlock Freezepop’s song is to play through not Career Mode, but Guitar Duel mode instead. Players who’ve played Guitar Hero III, will be familiar with Boss Battles, and this is essentially that. You’ll play through all the tracks against the Guitar Hero characters, and you’ll try to out perform them. The best way to accomplish this is by collecting battle gems and using special attacks against your opponent. You select the attacks by touching them on the touch screen. One of the attacks includes setting your opponent’s guitar on fire and they’ll have to blow it out by blowing into the microphone. Another attack sends a fan’s t-shirt to your opponent, blocking the guitar and the only way to get rid of it is by scribbling an autograph onto it. Other attacks increase speed or difficulty and others cause a bright camera flash to blind you temporarily. Unlike Guitar Hero III, the boss battles are much easier to play through this time around.

Guitar Duel is not only a single player mode, but also a multiplayer mode for up to two players. All the aforementioned styles of gameplay used in this mode as well as the addition of Face Off and Pro Face Off. These two modes are basically a tug-of-war competition between the players without items, and the best performer wins. Players can choose their own difficulty in Face Off or play on the same difficulty in Pro Face Off. Co-op play is also included, but all of these modes are only available in local multiplayer. There is no online multiplayer to be found, which is a disappointing step back for the series. Despite that gripe, the game is still pretty enjoyable.

Graphically, this game is decent for the hardware it’s running on. The character models are pretty ugly when compared to their console counterparts, but again, you’re not playing these games for their visuals. On the audio side of things, the sound effects are good and the music sounds pretty clear from the DS’s speakers. However, the speakers are pretty weak even at the highest volume, so headphones are undoubtedly the best method for listening to the game.

In closing, I’d never expect that Guitar Hero could work on a handheld? No one asked for it, but Activision delivered. It’s a decent, but expensive package that I can’t quite recommend. 26 songs for $50 is not worth the brief enjoyment this game offers. Not to mention the hand aches you’ll suffer from this game. If there were more playable songs and even an online mode, this game might have been worth keeping.

Ness's avatar
Community review by Ness (July 11, 2008)

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