Guitar Hero World Tour: Backstage Pass

It may look like the performers on stage at a gig or festival are just naturally good at their respective instruments, but no musician ever got anywhere without practising for hours on end.

This repetitive aspect of the art isn’t one that’s often publicised, because it’s dull – who wants to watch a documentary of their favourite artist sitting for hours practising their scales?

It’s strange, then, that it’s this aspect that Guitar Hero World Tour: Backstage Pass seems to focus on. The result is an unusual addition to the long-running series, but not a particularly successful one.

You can go your own way

Having been kicked out of his band for what appears to be no reason whatsoever (true to life, then), Axel has to pick up the pieces and form a new group with other familiar GH faces like Judy Nails and Lars.

To do this, he spends his time throwing leaflets, talking to radio hosts, signing record deals, battling other guitarists, rehearsing, and even occasionally playing a gig.

The first warning sign that this new entry to the franchise has veered somewhat off the beaten path is the sparse range of tracks on offer – just six. This leads to an hour of playing the exact same songs over and over again, with only poor mini-games to break up the repetition.

Whereas the first mini-game you encounter, leafleting, at least uses more than one button, the majority of the others require no skill whatsoever. Due to arbitrary limits imposed on unlocking new venues, it’s impossible to avoid playing them about a billion times before the end of the game either.

Tonight, I’m a rock and roll star

The gigs themselves are generally good, despite the scoring system being simplified and the tunes remaining MIDI files.

As with previous titles, the idea is to time button presses to correspond with the notes that drop down the screen. Despite the restriction to three (four for drums) notes, it works well, even if it doesn’t exactly feel like you’re playing the song.

Along with the previous guitar/drums combo, GHWT:BP now includes the option of playing the vocal and bass parts for each song, with the bass using the same tried-and-tested GH system.

The vocal part, on the other hand, feels like it was designed by someone who either really hates vocalists or life itself.

Instead of timing hits on a fret board, the player has to move disembodied lips up and down to match the pitch of the notes. This is performed by pressing the ‘5’ key to raise the pitch, and letting go to have it drop, rather than the more sensible method of using the ‘2’ and ‘8’ keys.

Unfortunately, because it moves like a party balloon being blown by an asthmatic kitten it’s frankly impossible to hit all the quick moving notes in a song perfectly, and this makes unlocking the final venue a chore.

Cool kids never have the time

To its credit, GHWT:BP is a fairly lengthy game. Unlocking each new venue or song can be incentive enough to keep plugging away at leafleting or five-starring the guitar part of ‘Go Your Own Way’ for the hundredth time.

Like Guitar Hero III: Backstage Pass before it, the game certainly adds a dose of variety to the endless beat matching of the main series. Those with only a casual interest in rhythm action may well find this to be right up their street.

It’s just that I can’t help but feel that a shorter, more focused title would have produced a far better performance.

Guitar Hero World Tour: Backstage Pass

Guitar Hero World Tour: Backstage Pass can still play a decent tune, but the mini-game groupies and repetitive gameplay choruses will test even the steeliest fan’s love of the band
Will Wilson
Will Wilson
Will's obsession with gaming started off with sketching Laser Squad levels on pads of paper, but recently grew into violently shouting "Tango Down!" at random strangers on the street. He now directs that positive energy into his writing (due in no small part to a binding court order).