In the past two years I’ve spent a lot of time playing Rock Band. That time had to come out of somewhere else, and I think the area of my life that suffered the most was my TV watching. People who know me know that I love TV, so to give up hours of TV to do something else, well, that other thing has got to be pretty special.
We started out with the original Rock Band after The Ass played it at a friend’s house two years ago. My mom sent us a check for Christmas and said “Buy whatever you want!” So I cashed the check in secret and surprised the family with Rock Band. And then lost a lot of sleep playing until all hours. We played that first set into the ground.
Since then we’ve gotten a Rock Band 2 Special Edition bundle and Lego Rock Band, courtesy of Microsoft and MTV. I’ve also spent some time at the MTV studios and several Microsoft events playing Beatles Rock Band, which is an amazing game – it’s going to have people who never ever thought they’d play a video game picking up the Rock Band controllers.
I’m not going to pretend that I don’t stay up extra late sometimes playing guitar into the night by myself, and I’ve been known on occasion to play during the day when the house is empty. But that’s all just practice for when the family plays together.
So here, after two years of playing Rock Band obsessively on our Xbox 360, is my holiday gift guide for all things Rock Band worth having. (Please note that since we play on an XBox 360, there may be small differences between platforms; if you’ve got a Wii or PlayStation 3 things may be a little different.)
Purchasing links go to XBox 360-compatible products, but you can click to other platforms once you’re there. I just did most of my Christmas shopping last night on Amazon.com, and it will all be here on Monday – their last minute shipping fees are not exorbitant, so don’t worry if you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping yet. It’s not too late. Just check the estimated ship dates for each item to ensure it will get to you in time (and maybe it’s just me, but at this point I would pay for next-day or two-day service, just to make sure; what happens if it’s scheduled for Christmas Eve delivery and you miss the delivery guy while you’re in the bathroom?).
The Big Pieces
Rock Band 2 Bundle
The original Rock Band was great, but not perfect. Rock Band 2 has some fantastic improvements over the original:
- Wireless drum and guitar
- Sturdier guitar with a firmer strum bar
- Better feet on the drumset so that it stays in place better, and a sturdier kick pedal
- “No Fail Mode” so that newbie players – or very little kids – can play with more experienced players, and not screw up the songs for everybody else
- Rock Band 2 game is compatible with all of the music you’ve already downloaded for Rock Band 1
- For a small fee (about $5) you can transfer just about all of your Rock Band 1 songs to your hard drive and play them on Rock Band 2
LEGO Rock Band
This is not just Rock Band with a Lego skin. Lego Rock Band is designed for kids and tweens, with a wide range of music. Plus, you get to see a few music icons rendered in Lego. Worth it just for Freddie Mercury’s mustache and Brian May’s hair.
Keep in mind, this is just the game – you have to buy the instruments separately (although I, for one, would love it if they came out with Lego Rock Band controllers!). Buy it with Rock Band 2!
- New “Super Easy Mode” lets you concentrate only on the beats, not the “notes” – just hit the strum bar on the guitar without worrying about which color fret to press, or hit any drum pad
- The whole game is “No Fail Mode” – instead of getting knocked out of a song and having to be “saved” by a band member, you can get back in automatically, then hit certain notes to save the points you’ve earned
- You can turn off the bass drum kicker and just worry about hitting the drum pads, without losing any points
- There are cool “challenges” that my son loves, like blowing up a building (to The Hives’ “Tick Tick Boom”) or exploring a haunted house (to “Ghostbusters”)
- Any Rock Band 1 or downloadable Rock Band music on your hard drive will show up in the Lego game, as long as it meets the age ratings requirements
- For a fee (about $10) you can export the Lego music to your hard drive, giving you dozens of new songs to play on Rock Band 2 (not available on Wii!)
The Beatles: Rock Band
The Rock Band developers probably could have just thrown a bunch of Beatles songs into a special edition of Rock Band and made a buttload of money. But that’s not what they did. They worked with the two Beatles that are still with us and with the estates and loved ones of the Beatles who are not. The details on The Beatles: Rock Band are fabulous, from just the right amount of wind on top of the Apple building, to the way the characters move, to the instruments (rumor has it that Yoko Ono was particularly, umm, precise and insistent).
I’m just going to say it: this is the game that will get old people to love Rock Band.
- Gather some friends around one mic, or add a couple of your own mics and attempt the harmonies The Beatles were so good at. This is the first Rock Band game that recognizes harmony
- Less “video gamey” than Rock Band 1 & 2, you don’t have to “unlock” any of the songs – they’re all there for you to play from the get-go. What you can unlock as you play are amazing pieces of Beatles history. Since I didn’t grow up with The Beatles, these tidbits were fascinating. For someone who did grow up with The Beatles, these will be a special trip down memory lane. Some of the audio clips and pictures can only be seen on The Beatles: Rock Band
- Custom guitar controllers just for The Beatles: Rock Band, modeled after guitars that The Beatles used themselves
- Besides the songs that come with the game, several albums have already been made available online for purchase, with more on the way
- This game also has “No Fail Mode” and in addition, any time a player selects “Easy” the “No Fail Mode” is activated automatically – again, great for people not used to video games
- Gameplay locations come from The Beatles’ career, such as The Ed Sullivan Show and The Cavern
- The music is kept “pure’ on this game – no drum-fill solos, no manipulating the guitar notes with the whammy bar. All of the sound is directly from the master recordings and you can’t mess with it. And even if you do a sucky job on a song, the crowd will not boo you off of the stage like in regular Rock Band. It’s The Beatles, nobody’s going to boo them off of the stage, even pretend (incidentally, all four Beatles get along with each other for the whole game too)
- There’s a really amazing drum training mode that takes you through something like 80 of Ringo Starr’s drumming patterns
If you want the game and the controllers but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on the premium bundle with the Beatles branded instruments, there’s also a value bundle available that has the “normal” Rock Band instruments with the Beatles game (but costs half as much). And of course, if you already have the instruments, you can just buy the game by itself.
I don’t have any of these specific items. I’m basing these recommendations on Amazon reviews, friends’ recommendations, and my own knowledge of the game and how I think these would help.
Drumming on your Rock Band 2 drumset getting too easy for you? Add on this set of velocity-sensitive symbols.
These adhesive pads attach to the Rock Band 2 drum pads to cut down on extra noise you get from playing the drums. The Rock Band 2 drums are a lot quieter than the original set, but the less drum controller noise you have, the more you get to hear the music.
Ion Premium Drum Kit
A professional drummer once told me that out of all of the “instruments” in Rock Band, drums were the closest to the real-life instrument: if you can play the drums well on Rock Band you’ve got a shot a playing the drums for real (for the record, I have absolutely no shot). So, why not go all out and get this upgraded drum kit? Everything is adjustable so you can put the pads just where you want them, and it includes two cymbals. When you’re ready to move on to the next stage, you can buy a “drum brain” and play it like a real drum set.
Watching my husband pile various pillows on the couch to get himself to the exact right height to play drums is kind-of entertaining, but once that gets old, I’m going to buy one of these stools.
Let your friends know you’ve taken Rock Band to the next step with a mic stand. Essential if you want to play guitar and sing at the same time. There are lots of microphone stands out there, and just about any one will do (I have a generic one that I picked up at a guitar store). If you want to go for one especially made for Rock Band, though, you get the added convenience of hanging your hand controller on the stand (although unfortunately, that one won’t be shipped until after Christmas). And if you want to do your Phil Collins impression and sing while playing drums, however, make sure you get a stand that will angle down over your drum set without getting in your way.
If you want your living room to look like a dorm room, just leave your Rock Band guitars on the floor. But if you’re reading my blog, you’re probably a grown-up and you want things to look nice. Again, you don’t need one specifically made for Rock Band. Just make sure it’s sturdy and won’t tip over.
…And the Giveaway!
MTV very generously gave me two Rock Band 2 Special Edition Bundles for XBox: one to keep, and one to give away. It includes a wireless drum kit, wireless guitar, mic, and Rock Band 2 game. Everything you need to get yourself started with Rock Band (except the XBox, of course – that’s your responsibility to have!). With winter upon us, this is a fantastic alternative to movie night or game night. Have a Rock Band party and impress your friends with your pseudo-musical talents! Get your kids to show you their chops on the mic. Act out your fantasy of playing guitar with The Go Go’s or singing like Blondie. But without having to get up in front of drunk strangers at karaoke.
To enter to win, all you have to do is leave a comment stating what song you’d most like to play on Rock Band 2 (you can find the complete Rock Band 2 track list at the bottom of this page).
For a second entry, you can tweet about this giveaway (don’t forget to leave a separate comment linking to your tweet or it won’t count; instructions on how to link to your tweet can be found here). Just make sure to mention what the prize is and link back to this post, or you can just copy and tweet this:
Enter to win a Rock Band 2 Special Edition bundle for XBox 360 – including instruments! – from @SelfishMom! http://bit.ly/6rV1aF
So, that’s a maximum of two entries per household, please. The comments will close at noon-ish on Monday, December 21st and random.org will draw the winner. Shipping available in the continental U.S. only. For complete rules, please see my Giveaway Rules page. Good luck!
Thanks so much to MTV for providing this awesome prize.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has Compensation Levels of 1, 5, 8, and 10. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.