The Rock Band: Unplugged title screen on a white PSP.

This portable version of Rock Band for the PSP tries something a little different, challenging you to play all four tracks of the Rock Band soundtrack in a four lane track system Harmonix already explored in Amplitude and Frequency.

So rather than using a series of incresingly more complex perhipherials Rock Band Unplugged is a nod to the rhythm action games of old and a faithful descendant of Harmonix’s two earlier games.

A Portable Rock Band?

  • Harmonix have done a fantastic job at porting across the Rock Band look and sound onto the small screen of the PSP. That said it is a game that is best experienced with a set of headphones.
  • One of the best looking and best presented PSP games on the market. Even the normally quite prolonged PSP loading times don’t seem to be an issue on this game.
  • Although you can customize all of your bandmates, some of the finer details of doing so are not present in this version, such as the logo creator. Mind you this could be because you’ll have a hard time even watching what your characters are up to anyway.
  • Playing all four instruments may take some getting used to. You’ll either love the flexibility the game provides or hate the fact that you can’t focus on your favourite instrument.

The music

  • The World Tour mode is back, with the quickplay and tour mode matching the standard of it’s larger cousin. Everything plays as you’d expect and moving between the four instuments is easier to keep on top of compared to Frequency & Amplitude. This is a far more accessible game.
  • The four layers that build up the songs are best noticed in this game, you begin to become more aware of how certain songs are put together. Rock Band Encourages this by increasing the volume of the track you are currently playing.
  • Existing fans may be disappointed by the amount of songs they already own in Rock Band 1 & 2 repeated in Unplugged. Some more unique tracks would have been nice, but at least the amended gameplay makes every existing song that much more enjoyable.
  • Initially you’ll be playing the same songs over and over in quick succession if you follow the world tour mode religiously. Impatient people may want to use the unlock music code for quick play.

The controls

  • Mercifully it’s quite easy to keep on top of what you need to do next. Rock Band Unplugged screen space is squeezed full of helpful details, such as the indicators bouncing on the beat pointing what track to play next to continue your score multiplier.
  • Harmonix’s note charts ease you gently into each more progressively difficult song, as ever each difficulty is perfectly weighted and each combination of notes or chords make sense both musically and rhythmically.
  • This is quite a tricky game, especially on higher difficulties, certain instruments (drums) tend to be more difficult than the others and the PSP buttons can be quite unforgiving; letting you make easy mistakes that are hard to recover from.
  • The default controls are a little fiddly at first, particulary for the buttons required to play red and yellow (relegated to the d-pad), thankfully they can be changed if you’re beginning to struggle.

In conclusion

Rock Band Unplugged is a worthwhile contribution to anyone’s PSP collection, proving that a spinoff to a music series can indeed be worthwhile and not just an occasion to cash-in but an enhancement to the series. That said this game stands on it’s own perfectly, and it ideal for beginners and experts alike. A must buy.

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