I basically spent one long afternoon playing Rock Band Blitz. I went through all the songs, unlocked all the power-ups, earned three quarters of the achievements, challenged a few friends, completed some of the goals from the Facebook app. So: a long afternoon, and a pleasant one!

But, after that afternoon, I didn’t really feel like coming back. The friend challenge mechanic left me a little uneasy: with the game as it launched, you couldn’t use even two power-ups, let alone three, at once on most of your playthroughs for a single song. So this meant that you had to grind to put yourself in a position to win challenges; and, to make matters worse, you couldn’t even really experiment with pairs of powerups to try to hone your strategies without seeing your coin collection dwindle. (They tweaked the costs and rewards a couple of weeks later, so I suspect that now the second problem has completely disappeared and that the first problem has mostly gone away in practical terms.)

It’s not like I have that many friends who would be likely to play the game enough for the competition to be a long-term draw, though; so, for me, what really matters is the single-player gameplay, both on its own terms and as a musical experience. I’m honestly not sure what I think about the gameplay on its own terms: I imagine that there’s a reasonable amount for me to sink my teeth into if I’d like to, especially experimenting with different powerup combos, but there are enough games around that I have to spend my time playing that I don’t really see why I should spend my time here. And the musical connection really didn’t work for me: with only two lanes, melody goes out the window, so you’re left with rhythm gameplay that maybe makes a little bit of musical sense for drums but almost none for the other instruments. To make matters worse, switching between tracks got in the way of my enjoyment of the music: I was never following changes in what I was paying attention to, I was instead getting jerked out of the music.

So, as a game: not unpleasant, but not something I wanted to spend more than one long afternoon with. (I did come back and put another hour into it, but that only confirmed my suspicion.) Basically: I couldn’t think of a situation where I’d prefer to play Rock Band Blitz instead of Rock Band 3. Fortunately, the Rock Band Blitz songs are all exportable to Rock Band 3, and a 25-song pack for 15 bucks sounds pretty good.

And, indeed, it is more than pretty good. As a basic collection of songs, it’s solid but not exceptional. What is exceptional is two aspects of the songs: while I enjoyed them fine on guitar and keys, many of the songs were flat-out great on vocal harmonies, and twenty-four out of the twenty-five songs include harmonies. So, if you enjoy singing harmonies, it’s a great deal. The second aspect that’s exceptional is the one song that didn’t come with vocal harmonies, namely Give It Away. That song was included on Rock Band 2, but wasn’t exportable due to some sort of licensing restriction. Which was a shame, because the rest of Blood Sugar Sex Magik was available as DLC; so it had been impossible to play the whole album in game unless you went back to Rock Band 2. And I really appreciate Harmonix for going out of their way to make that album whole again: no surprise that the company cares about their players, given how they keep on putting out DLC week after week, but yay for them.

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