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An-i-mal!

Over the Christmas holiday my Guitar Hero: World Tour drum set was given one hell of a beating. Our neighbour kindly went away for a whole fortnight, opening the way for spontaneous drum solos, Foo Fighter marathons and several epic, late night sessions. Simply put, that kit combined with Rock Band and three friends is up there at the pinnacle of gaming experiences.

Once again, though, the power of video games have resounded deep within me. Ali may have sensed I was getting ideas above my station when I invested in a proper drum “throne” – after all, how can anyone look professional when wailing on a plastic, Fisher Price-esque drum kit if they’re sitting on a kitchen chair – but not content with allowing myself these windows of gaming to express my inner Animal, I am now booked in for my first drumming lesson. Sunday sees my first step on the way to tackling Expert mode.

It’s all very exciting and a visit has already been paid to the music department to sit in awe at our own drum kit. Did you know the proper ones don’t have coloured rings around the drums?

Unfortunately there is already a precedent for this with me. Two years ago I bought an electric guitar after becoming hooked on the first Guitar Hero. Having previous had an acoustic guitar at uni which I’d enjoyed strumming off and on, I thought this was a great place to reinvigorate my musical side. Sadly it was never to be. After the initial hopes and eagerness faded, it went into storage for almost a year as we tried to move house and when it reappeared I was just never enthused enough to pick it up again seriously. So this time certain parties had to be assured that lessons would be at least taken before any purchase took place.

If all goes well a drum kit will hopefully be possible by Easter, with the garage is now being cautiously eyed as a potential home. So if anyone has got any spare egg boxes to help with the sound proofing, our neighbours would appreciate the donation.

First Impressions: Guitar Hero World Tour & Rock Band 2

I’ve held off of my rant against the god-awful pre-budget report and decided to focus on shiny things instead. Like my new Guitar Hero World Tour drum kit! Coming in a box large enough to house a full family of wombats, it surely is a thing of plastic beauty.

First thing to report is that the Guitar Hero World Tour drum kit is a marked improvement on the original Rock Band equivalent. The RB kit, although a fresh idea at the time, always felt a little flat and awkward with its four pads. My main issue being the spacing and that when I was staring fixedly at the note stream if my hands wavered it wasn’t always easy to differentiate between the middle pair. GHWT has solved this by stripping down the basic drums to three and adding a pair of raised symbols. It may not be much of a refinement but the definite placing of all five pads just lifts the whole experience for me – you know exactly where you need to bring the stick down, no matter where you are mid-flail.

It feels more satisfying, too. The simple aesthetic addition of the symbols still can’t separate you away from the fact that you are playing an oversized Fisher Price toy but the actions played out on it are just far more satisfying. You know exactly when a symbol smash is coming and bashing those elevated quarter circles of black rubber feels amazing, far better than the flat equivalent in Rock Band.

The moveable and more sturdy foot pedal is also a welcome upgrade as I no longer feel my foot is cramped underneath the tiny frame.

And so to the Rock Band 2 v Guitar Hero World Tour software battle. In summary Rock Band 2 is by far the better game. It has oodles of downloadable tracks already, its difficulty curve is friendly to newcomers, it has a varied but lengthy career mode to plough through and it has the all important “no fail” mode for when you get a drunken band together. In contrast, Guitar Hero is much harder for novices, its career mode’s progression is extremely strict and DLC are currently scarce.

What World Tour can offer, though, is drum arrangements that are more involving. Throughout the game there is are strict definition of what pad means what. For instance, the left symbol is always high hat, the right being crash. Rock Band may do similar but not to the same level and it is the consistency in GHWT that makes it a better drumming experience. What makes the comparison fairer is that both games share a lot of songs and having played Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer and others on both, I much prefer the style in which World Tour lets me hit things with sticks.

So it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. I’d heartily recommend GHWT’s drum kit for all the little things like the spacing of the inputs, the foot pedal and the build quality as a whole, but I’ll be playing it on Rock Band 2. Now Ali’s taken up the bass I can’t see our band, The Secret Society of Buzzlegums, ever moving back to GHWT… although I may sneak over for the odd solo.

Drop a beat

One of the joys of crunch is that with a lot of you free time evaporating around you is that you have a tendency to spend less money. The most recent threat to my wallet has been in the form of the Rock Band drum kit sitting in ASDA, taunting me from its lofty position, beckoning me to take it home.

You see, if they sold it like this out the box it would already be in my living room.

Despite all my rantings a while ago about how it was just too expensive, it didn’t stop me from being tempted. The lure was definitely there and Ali had to talk me down from the ledge on more than one occasion telling me I just don’t have time to play it.

That lust for plastic instruments, however, has now passed. As it turns out, I am quite a fickle gamer and if it’s not new then my urge to purchase it drops off dramatically. In the two weeks since Rock Band has been out in the UK I have gone from desperately searching eBay for a low, low price, to turning my attentions to the next big thing appearing on the horizon (and with any luck it’ll be cross-compatible and that will solve all my problems).

This transient gaming nature seems to have followed me around for some time and I know that in recent time Metroid Prime, Mass Effect and Half-Life 2′s episodes all having passed me by because I didn’t jump on the bandwagon at the time of release. It’s a very bad habit to get in to, and one I wish I could shake, but at least this time it’s saved me over a hundred pounds.