Game Reviews

Band Stars

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| Band Stars
Band Stars
| Band Stars

I was in a band once.

We were called "Stutter", and we were a punk outfit. We had four songs in our arsenal, and only two were any good. Somehow, though, we got to to play on the same stage that Muse references when Matt Bellamy sings, "I have played in every toilet."

My past life as a rock star has clearly been noted by my Pocket Gamer colleagues, for I've been assigned Band Stars to review.

Band Stars is the latest hot jam from Halfbrick and Six Foot Kid. In a nutshell, this is a game about creating a band and setting out on an epic quest for fame and fortune in the music industry.

I'll be living the life of a pop star over the next seven days, and detailing my experiences. Let's get this show on the road, then!

First impressions

The major concepts of Band Stars are introduced as soon as you fire up the game. Thankfully, you get to follow guided tutorials here (rather than simple text).

You choose the people that will make up your new band, give the band name a name, and get into the recording studio. Then, you begin writing and recording your first song.

This is a straightforward exercise: you choose a style of music that complements the lyrical theme, then assign the most appropriate band member to each instrument.

During recording, you can tap the 'Solo' button to shine the spotlight on a particular member of your band. While performing a Solo, you feed a meter with one of the currencies - called Inspirado - and try to keep the meter's bar in the green.

Pretty soon, your song is committed to vinyl and goes on sale. At this point, you can see how well it does in the charts. Sell a bunch of records and you might break into the Top 10.

With money from sales flowing in, you can decorate your band space with extravagant furniture. By doing so, you'll be encouraging your band members to interact with one another and remain well-rested and energised. Alternatively, you can refuel them with energy drinks, though these seem to be at a premium.

Band Stars is an entertaining-enough management experience thus far, and it's all very slick. But I'm yet to see anything in the gameplay that sets this game aside from all the other management titles on the App Store.

Day 3: Feeling good

By my third day with the game I've broken out of the Local Charts, and into the National Charts. While I'm not ranking quite as highly there with my tunes, it is earning me more money for my recording efforts.

I've also attracted the attention of a label called Shadow Forged Metal that puts out, rather understandably, metal tracks. But here's the thing: I hadn't released a metal song when I joined them. I had been focussing on punk and electronica.

The reason I can now put out singles with this metal label is that I'd simply hired enough band members who were metal musicians, automatically unlocking this option.

I know this game is not striving for realism, but the idea of a band that's the equivalent of a Daft Punk or a Polysics being signed to a hardcore metal label is so far from the reality of the music business that I'm led to wonder why the label system is included in the first place.

I've hired so many musicians to unlock this label that I've also had to purchase a VIP room to house them all. You can swap band members in and out at will, but while they're in the VIP room they don't recover stamina, and currently stamina is the single most precious resource I have, as it's keeping me from progressing further while I wait for it to recover.

I'm still enjoying myself, though - especially when completing the Challenges. These not only guide you through various elements of the game - such as buying new instruments and tech upgrades - but they also help focus you on building up a great band by improving their stats in Lyrics, Creativity, Melody, Rhythm, and Polish, and in turn improve your recordings.

You can't directly create new songs in the game, but that's okay, because the clips that represent the different genres are eminently listenable. Band Stars is easy on the eyes, too, and though it's not on the same level as Halfbrick's other releases the menu design is clear and the characters are adorable.

Day 7: We built this city

The Xeroes still haven't recorded an album, but they've recorded more than enough songs to fill several CDs.

Many of their songs have done exceptionally well in the National Charts, but no label has signed a proper deal with them.

They focus on making metal and speed metal tunes, as they get more money from the metal label for doing so - when they create pop tunes their fans don't bat an eyelid.

After a week with the game, it's evident that Band Stars isn't going out of its way to replicate the experience of managing a group of artists. Instead, it's using the musical theme as simply that: a theme, on which to base a free-to-play management game.

It's a fun free-to-play management game, no doubt. Clawing my way towards stardom, kitting out my recording studio, seeing what scrapes my band members have gotten into, and watching them improve their abilities is as compulsive and enjoyable as watching your city grow in a game like Megapolis.

But it's not a whole lot different an experience from Megapolis, and it's a shame that these musical elements aren't played up and used to greater effect.

Band Stars, then: a good game featuring super-slick presentation, but also one with gameplay you've probably seen elsewhere.

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Band Stars

Excellent presentation, and an enjoyable concept go a long way to concealing the fact that this is a pretty standard free-to-play management game