Power Gig: Rise of the SixString Review
When it comes to attempts at innovation, gamers tend to only remember the successful endeavors. The mediocre ones fall by the wayside; they’re temporarily and briefly applauded for the effort but as they didn’t fulfill expectations, they’re soon forgotten. Sadly, this will likely be the fate of Power Gig: Rise of the SixString. The problems are numerous but the most glaring issue is plain: despite the apparent surface innovation – “hey, a guitar with real strings!” – the result is a game that doesn’t actually do anything new. When you toss in the mediocre technical aspects, terrible design and presentation, and a seriously lacking soundtrack, the result is most disappointing. For those of you looking for the next step in the interactive music phenomenon, you might assume Power Gig would be capable of taking that step. Well, it’s not.
If it weren’t for the awkward and frustrating gameplay, the graphics would probably be the worst part of the game. Seemingly darker, less detailed, and overall less effective than just about any other music game currently available, fans of the genre will frown at the lack of polish. Animations are clunky and even annoying to behold, the concert halls and other backdrops do nothing to add flair and panache (in fact, they usually drag everything down), and the general presentation is just plain unappealing. Other music-based experiences aren’t visual monoliths but at least they’re often colorful and well-implemented. Power Gig just doesn’t do enough to keep up with the competition; even the special effects seem lackluster and unsatisfying. In many ways, the graphics aren’t only forgettable but they also serve to hamper an already glum experience.
Of course, given the very nature of the genre, the game should at least benefit from some of the best guitar music in history. But strangely enough, while certain maestros like Eric Clapton and certain legendary bands like Black Sabbath help, this is one of the most boring soundtracks to ever exist in the genre. I honestly don’t know how they managed to provide 70+ tracks that just don’t serve the purpose of titillating the player; of making us go, “hell yeah, I wanna try to play that!” Furthermore, there seems to be a lack of crispness and clarity when it comes to actual effects and “strumming,” because the notes just don’t seem to explode out of the speakers as they do with – for instance – DJ Hero 2. A few great songs save the sound category from being a total mediocre letdown but that’s about it.
Okay, let’s just get the major question out of the way- yes, Rise of the SixString does indeed come with a “real” electric guitar with strings. But the only time you really feel as if you’re playing a guitar is when you’re forced to strike a power chord…which, by the way, is an option that must be enabled at the start. Everything else is dictated by – wait for it – five colors, each color assigned to a certain string in the fret area. So yeah, I suppose you “play” the guitar in that you’re pressing strings rather than buttons but I’m willing to bet everyone had anticipated a lot more. The other problem is that if you enable the power chords, the difficulty level spikes big time, and not necessarily because you suddenly feel as if you have to strum a real guitar, but because of the arrangement. While you play most of the song on the second and third fret, the power chords exist down by the sixth so sliding around with my hand got irritating and uncomfortable.
Outside of the power chord, which I suppose works well enough as it’s both challenging and indeed something new, this is basically Guitar Hero 1.5. I didn’t even get that rock star feeling when attempting some bad-ass solos because those are all about the regular colored notes, and guess what? You can play them with any string on the guitar you wish, which sorta destroys the entire “innovation” concept. But these are just the disillusioning parts of the review; I haven’t even gotten to the aforementioned frustrating elements. First up is the bad presentation, which gives you the notes in a vertical scrolling fashion and makes it difficult to see what’s coming next; it also makes the power chords that much more impossible. Then there was the dreaded, “I played that note so why didn’t you notice it?” incident. Let’s just say I’m convinced my poor performance on certain songs was because the game didn’t pick up a dozen string presses.
That right there is a reason to toss the thing out the window. I’ve never been any sort of musical genius when it comes to Guitar Hero or Rock Band, but with a little practice, I can get better thanks to nicely designed interfaces and responsive controls. Those two leading franchises are popular and continue to drag down great review scores because they’re rock solid in terms of both user interaction and design; Power Gig doesn’t excel in either important category. Seven45 Studios tried to amp things up with the inclusion of Mojo Power, which is a good idea that is poorly executed (like most everything else associated with this product). When activated, your Mojo Power can result in perfect note strikes, longer streaks, and bigger multipliers, but they’re almost worthless. Why? Well, it’s a pain to activate them, first of all – move the analog that’s located near the start button, which means you’re almost guaranteed to miss notes – and secondly, the power doesn’t last long at all. Yippee.
I just don’t know what else to say. Everything about playing Power Gig: Rise of the SixString is either disappointing or irksome in some way. I was never able to complete even one clean song; one where I didn’t detect a missed input, didn’t have a problem maneuvering my hands around the guitar, and/or didn’t not hate the song. On top of it all, the guitar/software bundle holds a $179.99 price tag, which is the same price as the Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock package that also comes with a drum set. When you’re trying to compete with the best of the best and you trip and stumble continually, all the while presenting the public with a similar steep price…well, the end result isn’t going to be pretty. Maybe there’s a reason people always stick to Guitar Hero and Rock Band; maybe it’s because they’re always done well and when the imitators flop, they flop hard.
The Good: Innovative concept. A few great tracks. Power chords can be rockin’ cool…sometimes.
The Bad: Less than mediocre graphics. Terrible interface and presentation. Lack of responsiveness. Boring, uninspired soundtrack. Bad guitar design. Special power feels awkward and useless. Attempt at innovation falls flat.
The Ugly: When I almost snapped the guitar neck in half after the latest, “I played the note, I played it bi***!” freak-out.
11/8/2010 Ben Dutka