Reviews

Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s

G. Christopher Williams

Guitar Hero has largely always been rocking the '80s.


Publisher: RedOctane
Genres: Music/rhythm
Price: $49.99
Multimedia: Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s
Platforms: PlayStation 2
Number of players: 1-2
ESRB rating: Teen
Developer: Harmonix
US release date: 2007-07-24
Amazon UK affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Developer website

I imagine during the 80s that Homer Simpson lipped his licks and drooled at least once before intoning, "Ohhh ohhh ohhh... glam rock."

If Homer didn't do it then, I did it myself during this new millenium when my review copy of Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s finally arrived.

My wife and oldest daughter have been bigger fans of the Guitar Hero series than myself. Nerd that I am, my preference for good musical rhythm games has always been Harmonix's brilliant but underappreciated Frequency and Amplitude. Both their techno vibe and the ability to play a controller rather than an instrument-shaped controller (a much more accessible way to "play music" for a console playing junkie like me) make them more palatable to my tastes. For my less gamer geek family members, the casual gamer accessibility of the Guitar Hero franchise is a good justification for the claim that the PlayStation is indeed there for "whole" family to enjoy.

However, as a child of the '80s and perpetual '80s pop music lover, I have been really looking forward to this newest version of the franchise.

From the perspective of '80s culture -- the style and flavor of the era -- the game looks great. All your guitar heroes, Johnny Napalm, Judy Nails, Pandora, et al, are back and have been tweaked with some suitably loud and wildly mismatched '80s wardrobe (I particularly like Judy's Lucky Star-era Madonna-esque look). Skinny ties and lace fingerless gloves abound.

Additionally, the new settings look good as well. One venue that features a kind of "Rock Out for Safety" theme seems especially inspired by the "messagey" type of social programming popularized during the era in order to lend rock an air of social responsibility (a "Just Say No To Drugs" sign is included amongst other posters -- good stuff).

Strangely, though, the looks presented here, while clearly being stylized more overtly after the '80s, made me realize that the original game itself really was nearly as much inspired by this era (the tail end of a guitar rock dominated musical landscape begun in the 70s with bands like KISS and the like). Indeed, many of the characters in the original game are really largely derived from late '70s and early '80s looks (punk rock, KISS-style glam, etc.) because in many ways the "guitar hero" was both birthed and became extinct within those eras. Additionally, the pyrotechnics and overproduced stage shows that inspired many of the original Guitar Hero's stages pretty much belong to the era of gross materialism.

This repitition of glam imagery, though, may justify even moreso the addition of Encore to the game's title. It isn't just a sequel, it's more of an homage to the same idealization and romanticization of the idea of the rock god. And, barring glimpses of him through 80s nostalgia and the smell of the, perhaps, already decomposing corpse in the documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, we don't need Nietzsche to tell us that god is dead.

You simply cannot go wrong with green hair.

Maybe such continued desire for glam superficiality is the best way to admire and to represent a decade based on the plasticization of its own sense of self.

Speaking of plastic, the ol' guitar-shaped controller holds up quite well in the newest of such homage induced games with the same familiar controls and a continued solid gameplay style. There is a sense of datedness to the game's playstyle that may give it the sense of familiarity of something a few decades old, though. While the game's new titular addition is intended to signal the "newest" gameplay refinement, the addition of a song unlocked by completing several songs at a venue that the crowd calls for as an "encore" isn't all that "new." Neither unlockables, nor unlockable songs in music games are all that innovative. However, the addition of an encore-related transition scene as the crowd calls for the encore and some (usually) outrageous additional set piece emerges on stage to thrill the crowd is not only pretty 80s, it is also pretty fun.

The tracks featured on the game are a little less charmingly surprising, though. For an era that spawned so many hair bands, the hard rock staples are a bit underrepresented here. Sure, the Scorpions are here, Twisted Sister is here, Quiet Riot is here, and Poison is here, but where is Bon Jovi, Van Halen, AC/DC, and Whitesnake? And why are A Flock of Seagulls and the Dead Kennedys in a game called Guitar Hero (don't get me wrong I like both bands -- especially the Dead Kennedys -- but neither one do I normally associate with guitar godhood)?

I hate to be one of those critics who complains about what isn't in a game rather than what is there, but in the case of a music-based game that advertises itself as representing an era, the track list seems sorely lacking in evoking a sense of the era without some of the most successful acts of the period. Of course, some of the bands that I have mentioned have appeared in previous iterations of the series, which brings me back to my original thought on the series: Guitar Hero has largely always been rocking the 80s.

7

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image