Guitar Hero II: Rocks the 80s Review (PS2)

The lights come up, a brilliant day glow of hot pink and electric blue. It’s a time of big hair, tight acid washed pants and bandanas tied here and there for no particular reason. The opening strains of music are familiar and bring a thrill plunging the artist into the concert, singing and dancing as fingers play intricate runs and complex hammer ons and offs. All coming to a climatic crescendo as a small child enters the room, looking up with big eyes and stating. “Mom…you’re so weird.” I find the whole thing hysterical because I am not the weird mom. I am just the weird mom’s weird friend who is likewise jamming out in front of the television where the toilet decorated high score screen of Guitar Hero Encore:Rocks the 80s shows that we’ve completed the level and flushed off the lowest scores. Go us!

Okay, big hair and hot pink…rocking!
Old backgrounds, but new outfits

The third in the Red Octane Guitar Hero series Guitar Hero Encore : Rocks the 80s was brought to store shelves in July of this year. After almost a month to settle in the word is coming in from the fans and the word is…conflicted. So here it is…the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’d dare saw the awesome, bummer and like, oh my gosh…but that might be going just a little too far.

The Good
The best parts of Guitar Hero Encore, are the same things that were the best parts of the first two Guitar Hero games. Namely a very fun rhythm game and playing style complete with several different modes for both single and multiplayer gaming. The variety of Gibsonisque game guitars work just as well for Rocks the 80s with a few new options available to more full represent the instruments of the decade. The majority of the tracks are well recorded and very reminiscent of the originals. I had no problems recognizing what each song was supposed to be. The reactions of the crowd and star powered guitar tricks are still fun, as is the variety of tunes available in their newly minted 1980s wardrobe and hairstyles. The experience is definitely not diminished from one game to the next and the levels provide plenty of challenge for both experienced and fledgling Guitar Heroes.

Showing off their new duds. Go Judy and Pandora
Not bad tracks, just wish they were better

The Bad
Since I just mentioned it lets start with the graphics and the tunes. The graphics are the same old thing, same backdrops and characters as Guitar Hero II. There are only a handful to choose from and only one to unlock with their new wardrobes. Fun, but hardly what was expected as far as numbers. I love the idea that the Grim Reaper wears 3D glasses, but couldn’t we have had even one new arena? While we do get thirty more tracks, the decade of the synthesizer and music we love to hate apparently posed a lot more trouble in getting great tracks…or at least licensing great tracks. Even some of the options from big names are not their best known hits. Still fun to sing along with, but with a much reduced number of tracks and no bonus tracks it seemed a little…lame.

The Ughly
Much uglier than the neon glow of the reskinned start up and selection screens is the price tag associated with this encore. The unchanged features of this game, reduced player options, fewer tracks, no bonuses and selection of tracks firmly put this game in the grounds of an expansion, which as an Encore presentation seems like a decent idea. The price tag that has been assigned, however, is that of a full game. What should be listed around $30 is going for $40 on sale and $50-$60 off sale which is also the price for the upcoming Guitar Hero III that already reports more tracks and new game modes to be available upon release. I think Encore is very much worth having in my gaming collection, and for the hard core 80s fan or Guitar Hero fan a must, but if you haven’t purchased it yet you may want to wait for the bargain bin where the price goes down more to where it should be.

Who doesn’t love a mullet?
Burying the needle in the green, that’s how you play the game

Top Game Moment: Yeah, it was thrilling to jam out to songs that I haven’t thought much about in two decades. Kinda like jamming to 80s radio but somehow much cooler. And Viking sword guitar…how cool is that?