'Beatles: Rock Band' will please please you; on flip side, it's too short

Eric Gwinn
Chicago Tribune (MCT)

"The Beatles: Rock Band" brings the band's music to life in a novel way. You have to perform to hear the music, and this interaction deepens your connection to the music. Playing "The Beatles: Rock Band" transformed me from someone who thought the Beatles were cool to a guy on the verge of Beatle geekdom.

It's not for everyone. If you're an over-50 Beatles expert who plays guitar, you will think this toy is a colossal waste of time.

Everybody else will find lots to enjoy and discover.

"The Beatles: Rock Band" plays like other so-called rhythm games. Strap on a small, plastic guitar, then squeeze the colored buttons in rhythm with the colored blocks on your TV screen as they descend down a guitar neck. New here is three-part vocal harmony (other games allow only one singer.) Achieve a three-star rating, and you'll unlock photos from the group's early days in the Cavern nightclub to sessions in the Abbey Road studio in later years.

Unlock enough photos, and you'll release a mini-movie, such as the band's first Christmas album for fan club members in 1963.

Many other treats abound. Progress far enough into the game, and you'll find recordings of the bandmates chatting between takes.

In story mode, you match the Beatles' rise to fame, from the Cavern to "The Ed Sullivan Show" to the rooftop of the Apple headquarters for a memorable performance.

The game gets nearly everything right.

The Easy level doesn't overwhelm newcomers; the Medium level is just challenging enough; and Expert is appropriately insane.

The animation does a good job of capturing the early Beatles' moves: Note Ringo Starr's loosey-goosey head-and-shoulders shuffle as he drums away. Overall, the visuals are excellent, and the opening sequence is superb.

While meticulously done, the game is too short. After seven hours, I had completed the entire game, though not with the highest scores on every tune. Another five hours later, and I had achieved five stars on just about all of the 45 songs at Medium difficulty.

Of course, I could replay the game on higher levels to up the challenge.

Future downloads, even whole Beatles albums, will be available in coming months.

This is more than a video game. It's a new way of discovering what made the Beatles the Beatles.

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