With any band-specific music video game, a company is taking a chance that enough people will like that band’s music enough to want to play a game focused entirely on that artist.
It’s a gamble because there will be a huge segment of consumers who will have no interest in that band.
But Harmonix made a risky bet when it announced last year it was working on a game with The Beatles.
That game, “The Beatles: Rock Band,” landed in stores Tuesday, the same date of the release of the band’s complete re-mastered catalog.
This might be sacrilegious, but I’m not a huge Beatles fan. I’ve listened to their music more and more in recent years, and I have come to enjoy and greatly respect the music and the band’s place in history.
That being said, The Beatles are as beloved as any band in history, so Harmonix is targeting a demographic much larger than the ones targeted by rival Activision’s Aerosmith and Metallica games.
The result of that work is the most polished music game yet released.
The company went to great lengths in working with Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison to re-create the band’s career from playing in Liverpool, England’s Cavern Club to their appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” to the recording sessions at the Abbey Road Studios.
The first half is strong, taking you through the early part of the band’s career and focusing on the early hits. But the game hits its high mark when the career progression takes the player in the Abbey Road Studios for the band’s later recordings. Because the band literally stopped touring later in its career, the developers didn’t feel it would be right to have The Beatles playing these songs in front of crowds.
Instead, they designed these amazing “dreamscapes” that transport the band to a fantasy setting. When you are playing “Yellow Submarine,” the band is playing underwater with the submarine zipping around it.
Twenty of the game’s songs have dreamscapes, and all of them have different imaginative twists. It becomes difficult to play some of the songs because you naturally want to watch the dreamscapes.
From a gameplay aspect, not a whole lot has changed in the series. The biggest difference is the addition of three-part harmonies on vocals.
The game is much easier to play than past music games. I played through the entire game on expert level — I usually take the hard route — and only had trouble with “Revolution.”
The game has 45 on-disc songs, but three complete albums — “Abbey Road,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Rubber Soul” — will be released this fall for download.
As with any band-specific game, your enjoyment of the product will likely tie into how much you like the band.
There are no songs from other bands in “The Beatles: Rock Band.” But this is The Beatles, so finding people who enjoy their music shouldn’t be hard.