Rock Band Unplugged is that same game without the electronica. Running with the Rock Band franchise, Rock Band Unplugged provides a range of "hits" from the likes of Weezer, Lit, Bon Jovi and many other rock veterans.
The game is played by controlling the back-bone of a band's setup - vocals, guitar, bass and drums. You play notes by hitting the Triangle, Circle, Up and Left buttons in time to the music. Instruments can be switched by using the shoulder buttons. It's imperative you switch instruments regularly otherwise you will fail. In order to succeed in Rock Band Unplugged you must play phrases for each particular instrument. For example, a drum section may last two bars of music, successfully complete this section (or "phrase") and the next 12 bars of drums will play automatically, allowing you to switch to the bass and complete a phrase there. Essentially this means you can get all the instruments playing at the same time, which is your objective. It's brilliantly simple but very engrossing. There's never any "down-time" in Rock Band Unplugged, you're always playing something.
Creating a band and the members of it makes for an exciting career mode, where you start out as lowly wannabes in your home town and end up rocking London and New York.
With the promise of DLC and some insanely difficult track's to learn, Rock Band Unplugged will last as long as you want it to.
Rock Band Unplugged has some really excellent gameplay. It's very simple but so well handled. Focusing on a particular instrument brings that element forward into the mix allowing you to hear more prominently the notes of the particular track you're playing. Likewise, when you make a mistake, instruments will drop out of the mix. It's awesome because in career mode you'll hear the mistakes. Thus, if you lose fans at the end of a gig, you'll totally know why. On the flipside when you play an excellent gig it's so rewarding.
Despite being on the PSP, Rock Band Unplugged has some fancy graphics. Naturally the centre piece for the game is the stave telling you which notes to play, but the background does a good job showing band members rocking out to various tracks. In career mode you can also customise your band and make them look the way you want to. Clothing and instruments can be unlocked and while we're not particularly big fans of the styles included - this game very much lives up to its name "Rock Band" - we appreciate the options all the same.
The difficulty settings in Rock Band Unplugged pretty much cater to a range of players. Most will feel comfortable on the "Medium" setting but the "Easy" mode is there for those who have difficulty keeping rhythm. Most interesting are the "Hard" and "Very Hard" modes which will keep players glued to the PSP for hours and hours. We're convinced that playing tracks on the very hard mode is actually more difficult than learning to play the respective instruments but still - that challenge will keep you hooked for many hours.
We get that Rock Band Unplugged has Rock Band in the title because it caters to those who like rock but given the history of the gameplay we hoped that Harmonix would have snuck some electronica into the package. We don't totally hate the track listing but it seems a bit random at times with some bizarre track selections that we're sure some people enjoy but - if you're not overt rock fans - you'll probably want to skip on some songs. The DLC is coming strong but is still catering to a particular audience. We'd just like to see the formula expand into some different genres. The inclusion of Jackson 5's "ABC" is a nice change but it's a rare one. The track listing is mainly commercial rock we're afraid.
It would have been welcome if you could customise your band more in the Career Mode. As it is you get a set of a few faces and clothes styles and not much else to give your band personality. It's a shame Harmonix didn't add more options here.
Taking your band online and pitting it out in an online Battle Of The Bands would have been excellent fun and is a missed opportunity here. We would have loved to have seen our own The Squares heading up the Rock Band Unplugged leaderboards. We could always wish for a patch but we're not sure it's likely.
Rock Band Unplugged won't satisfy everyone with its track selection but the core gameplay is rewarding enough to make the package an extremely enjoyable one.