Even though the Beatles went their separate ways about forty years ago, their music has remained popular with fans young and old. That popularity is sure to intensify now that the Beatles are finally making their video game debut in The Beatles: Rock Band, available for all major consoles (though this review is for the Wii version). For the first time, players can rock out to many Beatles classics while virtual representations of famous performances and surreal-looking sequences are shown. Was this resurgence of Beatlemania worth the wait? It is safe to say that the answer to that question is yes: just like so many other things associated with the Beatles, this game is very much worthy of being another classic from a group known for making music history long after their split.
For those new to the Rock Band series, basically you use musical peripherals-specifically, a guitar, drums, and a microphone-to play and sing along with songs as they are played. A single player can use any one peripheral to try and complete a song, while multiple players can join to form a band, with each player using the peripheral of his or her choice. You must perform the song by hitting as many notes as you can or by singing the best that you can. The better your performance, the higher your score. Make too many mistakes, and the song will end prematurely. There are four difficulty levels-easy, medium, hard, and expert-where you can try out your skills. You can start at a low difficulty before moving to a harder one, if you desire. This edition of Rock Band does include new features such as a no-fail option where you can clear a song even if you make too many errors and a three-part harmony option.
As for the songs, the game features over forty Beatles classics released between 1963 and 1970. You have early favorites such as Twist and Shout, I Saw her Standing There, and I Want to Hold Your Hand. You also get later classics including Paperback Writer, Revolution, Come Together, and even the Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows mash up taken from The Beatles Love Cirque de Soleil production. Compared to other music games, the selection of songs is limited, but what the game lacks in the amount of songs it has, it more than makes up for with some truly memorable and iconic songs. You can use the Quickplay mode to play any song you wish, and try them all out in the all new story mode, which takes you through the Beatles’ celebrated career from their early days at the Cavern Club to the famous rooftop concert.
Initially, the footage that plays during every song are virtual recreations of well-known concerts and appearances, including their debut on the Ed Sullivan show and the Shea Stadium concert. The attention to detail here is amazing: the Beatles’ mannerisms have been recreated perfectly, and naturally, you have the screaming girls in the audience. Later, as the Beatles retire from touring in favor of crafting masterpieces in the studio, you have songs that start at Abbey Road Studios, but which transport the Fab Four into surreal musical sequences. You get to see Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in Pepperland, the Beatles riding in a yellow submarine, and the Fab Four dressed in animal costumes for I Am the Walrus. The only drawback with these sequences is that you will be so busy playing the songs that you will barely get a chance to see all of the cool footage. Luckily, you can check out clips of these sequences on YouTube to see what you would otherwise miss.
By playing the game, you will unlock pictures of the Fab Four as well as trivia related to each song or describing what the Beatles were up to when the songs were released. Additionally, there are numerous videos to discover, many of which were made especially for the game and briefly show the transition from one phase of the Beatles’ career to the next. Some of the movies are actually rare footage not seen anyplace else…you can even unlock one of the Beatles’ Christmas records released on an annual basis in the United Kingdom during most of their career. Granted, the footage in these clips are grainy and vintage, but the films are entertaining and fascinating, and Beatles fans will not be disappointed. For replay value, there are accomplishments to achieve, and getting every single one of them will take a lot of time and practice.
The game carries a hefty price tag: to get the full set which includes the game and instruments will set you back $250. Even if you already have the instruments and you just want to pick up the game separately, the software alone is $60, ten dollars more than most other new Wii games. In the months to come, you will also have to shell out some extra cash (or Wii Points, as the case may be) if you wish to download additional songs not included in the initial collection. By the end of the year, three Beatles albums will be available online with songs from those records that were not in the game available for download. If you are willing to spend all that money, then you will find the game to be worth every penny.
As mentioned before, the virtual recreations of the Beatles’ performances is quite impressive, even if the Wii version tends to look a bit jagged. Look past these little faults for the real treat: musical sequences that Paul and Ringo should be, and John and George likely would have been, proud of. There is also no faulting the music, which sounds as excellent as it has ever been. It helps that these songs have been favorites among fans for decades. No matter how many times you hear these classics, they never grow old. They are quite timeless, and their inclusion will surely make new fans out of some people, as well.
The Beatles: Rock Band has been a long time coming, and needless to say, it was well worth the wait. It is another excellent addition to the Beatles’ storied legacy, which will surely live on for many more years to come. As limited as it may be compared to other music games, it is still a lot of fun for Beatles’ fans of all ages. There is no doubt that Beatlemania is back in a huge way with the release of this game. This is one Magical Mystery Tour that you will want to take again and again, as the game is so addictive. This is yet another triumph for the Fab Four, a group that will likely never stop making history even though they disbanded many years ago.