Rock Band Reloaded Brings the Jams to the iPad

Over a year has passed since we last took a look at Rock Band on any of the Apple iDevices, but Harmonix and EA Mobile are at it again with the recent release of Rock Band Reloaded HD for the iPad. Making use of the newer device’s hardware, the title attempts the recreate the rock star experience for mobile with a quality selection of music and a host of downloadable content.

Coming with all the mechanics of any other Rock Band game, Reloaded does a good job of translating the title to the iPad, though it doesn’t exactly recreate the experience users have come to love in the console version. Even so, the overall game plays quite well with its new social challenge modes.

For those few who remain uninitiated, Rock Band is a rhythm franchise that allows players to become a rock star by timing taps on music notes that stream down the screen. As the player hits the notes, the score will increase, multiplying as they hit in succession, and playing the current song selected. If a note is missed, the multiplier is lost, and too many successive misses will result in failure.

All of these console mechanics are still present in Reloaded, as well as the special glowing notes that will charge the “Overdrive” meter (which can be activated, when full, to double one’s score multiplier). Also, it wouldn’t be Rock “Band” without the inclusion of all the instruments of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals.

Each instrument plays similarly on the screen to their console counterparts, but they do lack the same feel without an analog guitar or drum set controller. Of the instruments, drums will likely feel the most natural to most people with the tapping action, while the guitar will take getting used to for Rock Band (or Guitar Hero) veterans.

For those veterans, the title has incorporated the expert mode that was lacking in Rock Band’s original iPhone version. Like all the titles before it, the songs start off fairly simple, but ramp up quickly as users progress through the primary World Tour mode with increasingly tricky rifts and solos.

It’s also worth noting that the vocal recognition for the game works decently well, and many of the World Tour levels require users to utilize the vocals in a special “Challenge.” Thankfully, for those who feel a bit reserved about singing into an iPad, a special touch rendition of vocals is always available.

Challenges are particularly useful in the game’s core scoring and social mechanic. Measured in “fans,” which are earned by completing songs with more earned for higher scores on said songs, players can connect through Facebook and compare themselves to others via a global leaderboard. While this is fine and dandy, it’s the interaction with friends that is particularly interesting.

Once connected through Facebook, players can not only track each other through leaderboards, but can connect to a news feed that show how friends are doing in the game. This “News Center” will display any and all accomplishments that friends have achieved and users can simply tap on it to go directly to the exact same song, instrument, and difficulty and attempt to beat it. Once finished, this will update in their feed and can be posted to Facebook as well.

Rock Band wouldn’t be a band without synchronous multiplayer, so that’s here too. The traditional play is present, where users can connect via WiFi or Bluetooth and play songs together. Getting four friends with iPads can be tricky, so there’s also a Versus mode that pits two users against one another on the same device, and an iPhone version of Reloaded (same basic game, just much smaller and more cluttered) that is a bit more economically feasible for friends wishing to play together.

There aren’t any particularly glaring problems with Rock Band. The only truly negative aspect is that players cannot create their own rockers like in other Rock Band games, but then again, this is a mobile version. The avatars that do represent the band are rather distracting, especially the lead singer, who just sort of bobs around in synch with the music without moving his lips. While this might seem minor, it looks absolutely absurd, detracting from the gameplay.

Most users will enjoy Rock Band Reloaded quite a bit. It’s on the pricier end for iPad games at $9.99, but is still a good addition for music and rhythm-game lovers. The initial track list is pretty decent, too, with more songs available through in-app purchases. In the end, if you have the cash lying around and don’t mind the lack of the analog controllers, Rock Band Reloaded is a fun game that’s made even better with friends.