Gitaroo Man Lives!
| Gitaroo Man Lives!

Gitaroo Man Lives! starts with a scene that anybody with a healthy imagination and a CD player has already lived. We've all been there: posed in front of the mirror, topless and pouting as the silk-toned riff of Sweet Child 'O Mine cuts the air. You hammer the strings on your squash racket with 12-year-old fingers, role-playing Rock God to 60,000 screaming Wembley fans, represented for this moment of bedroom immortality as six assorted cuddly toys and an armless action man.

And so it is that Gitaroo Man begins. Well, minus the Guns & Roses bit and plus a diminutive talking pet dog giving you air guitar instructions, not to mention a bizarre googly-eyed chicken with a cymbal keeping time behind your right shoulder.

Gitaroo Man Lives!, if you haven't already guessed, follows the story of a young spiky haired boy (the awkwardly named U-1), who dreams of being a guitar legend.

No sooner has his canine guitar tutelage finished, however, than the dastardly Gravillian family burst through the bedroom window announcing their mission to capture all the guitars in the world, conquering it and subjugating humanity. Without a moment's thought, U-1 straps on a futuristic rock suit and an implausibly angled axe and is instantly turned from boy-with-The-Dream to instrumentalist impresario upon whose fretboard rests the very fate of humanity.

The easiest way to understand Gitaroo is as a musical beat-'em-up, where successful blows are landed by nailing screaming guitar solos while blocks and parries are controlled by expert timing. Throughout the course of the game you face off against ten progressively difficult opponents and, by draining their health bar and managing to keep yours buoyant, you'll secure victory and advancement.

The battles are played out over the top of outrageously Japanese-flavoured songs (all written specifically for the game) and, as with all games in the rhythm action genre, keeping time is the key to success.

Each battle is split into the aforementioned offensive and defensive sections.

During the attacking phase, you have to track the direction of a red line using the analogue nub and, at the appropriate moments, hit and hold one of the PSP's face buttons to trigger a guitar chord. The line of music approaches the centre of the screen, giving an easy representation of bars and beats. Despite how it might sound on paper, tracking the liner is straightforward while tapping the buttons for the right length of time is decidedly trickier. You're marked on the accuracy of your timing (Great, Good, OK and Miss) and, how many of each grade you receive during a song obviously dictates your final score and overall rating.

When defending, things are far simpler although not necessarily easier. You have to purely but quickly hit the button that appears on the screen at the right time – there's no manipulation of the nub and you only have to momentarily press the button at the appropriate time to effectively block. However the frequency of attacks makes keeping up difficult and, for each block you miss, you lose a little of your health bar.

It's as fun as it sounds and the incredible soundtrack and jaw-dropping, exuberant visuals impressively and compulsively clothe what is essentially a simple mechanic. Each of your opponents is crazier than the last and, even after you've cleared the main game, the Master mode (where there are more notes to hit in less time) provides miles of extra sheet music to play through.

An excellent wireless two-player mode (during which you can either team up against the computer or battle it out against each other) and the extremely manageable loading times (considering the amount of data the PSP has to load) make this a very attractive package to the social and travelling pocket gamer. There are some tricky difficulty spikes but these mostly serve to steel your resolve rather than reach for the off switch.

With a pair of headphones Gitaroo Man Lives! is perfect for true on-the-go play; the host of unlockable bonuses round off what emerges as one of the PSP's most compulsive and perfectly unique music titles.

Gitaroo Man Lives!

The natty storyline will make you grin, while the perfectly pitched gameplay and glorious multiplayer mode will make you sing: a near-perfect light-hearted and innovative music title for the PSP