Remember when rock was dangerous? John Lennon claimed The Beatles were bigger than Jesus, and it caused a massive shitstorm. A few decades later, their legacy has been immortalized further with this year’s highly celebrated The Beatles: Rock Band, which also further legitimized the videogame series as a pop-cultural touchstone. The Beatles are a tough act to follow, and LEGO Rock Band has that unenviable task.
Problem is, The Beatles: Rock Band is a huge exception for the franchise as it currently exists. Rock Band games are pretty much all the same: What makes any particular title worthwhile is its song selection. LEGO Rock Band does itself a huge disservice by skimping on a lot of features now considered standard with Rock Band 2. Gone are online multiplayer and single-player challenges; instead of having nearly 100 songs available out of the gate, LRB offers a paltry 45. And what a schizophrenic collection it is: From Counting Crows’ “Accidentally In Love” and Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” to Good Charlotte’s “Girls & Boys” and Ray Parker, Jr.’s favorite song, “Ghostbusters,” there’s something for everyone. There just isn’t much of it. LEGO Rock Band is intended as a family-friendly twist on the franchise, but the lack of cohesion feels like the developers just went to the local mall and quizzed patrons at Hot Topic, Gap, and GNC about what should be included.
Similarly frustrating is the game’s ability to take exciting songs like Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and Blur’s “Song 2” and make them boring even at the toughest difficulties. It’s understandable that this version wants to make rocking out more accessible, but why patronize skilled players, when newbies or grandmas can enable the new “super easy” mode, allowing you to strum any note, sing without regard for pitch, or even let the kick-drum go on autopilot?
But at its core, this is Rock Band. A jam session can still quickly turn into five hours gone, and LRB’s introduction of “rock power challenges” wherein players demolish buildings or conjure storms with the almighty power of rock help assure that. But since that’s the title’s sole inspired innovation, the overall package feels lazy—something adorable blocks can’t hide.