Feel free to boo the Wii version of Ultimate Band offstage before sound check, but stick around for the DS edition’s encore. Unlike the console gestural flop, the DS edition has no problem providing a tactile, engaging music game that doesn’t require expensive gear. The stylus is the venerable one-hand-band where lead, rhythm, bass, and drums each feel distinct enough to stand on their own without controlling too differently from one another.
When looked at as a whole, Band for the DS plays and feels like a mixture of Dance Dance Revolution, Elite Beat Agents, and Jam Sessions. Drums, for one, feel most like Elite Beat Agents, as you hit the skins within collapsing circles. Harder difficulties offer one-handed rhythms that conjure the signature beast of Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen. Just don’t expect to see “Pour Some Sugar on Me” on the setlist. A measly 15 songs (half of which are covers — and all abridged versions) round out an otherwise excellent music game.
Click the image above to check out all the Ultimae Band screens.
Each instrument adds a little variety to the short list of songs by bringing their own unique feel and rhythm. In the string section, bass and lead guitar play exactly the same, where you’re tapping falling notes on the appropriate string while fingering the melody with the D-pad. It works perfectly and even gives you the creative room to add “grace” notes — ad-lib stylings that bring a personal touch to your performance. Rhythm guitar plays just like the chord generating in Jam Sessions, where — instead of tapping single notes — you strum all the strings at once. Each instrument works great; I just wish the developers had thrown in a few more musical elements (like sustained notes or hammer-ons) for variety’s sake.
It’s telling that my main criticism of Band is its meager song count, as it’s a feat for any game that actually made me love jamming to Fall Out Boy. But after the eighth time through, I felt like lighting my DS on fire, Hendrix-style. Attempting to spice things up by adding bandmates doesn’t help, either; multiplayer mode’s simply a high-score duel between players. It would’ve been great if everyone could jam on different instruments, but filling out the “band” causes the songs on each DS to fall out of sync, divorcing you from the feeling of playing the song together. So in the end, Band’s not quite a legend, but it’s far from an amateur act.