It’s hard to not be charmed by the idea of playing Guitar Hero anywhere you go, or of strumming your DS with wild abandon, faux pick in hand and lip askew like a geeky Billy Idol. Whimsical charm only gets you so far in the face of frustrating issues, though, of which Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades has plenty. Just as we found in our review of the original On Tour, those issues can be a real pain – usually in the wrist area.
Decades offers more of the same, utilizing a virtually unchanged in-game engine and fret/cartridge accessory to offer 28 new tunes for your rocking enjoyment. All the tracks are from the original masters (no more touring with cover bands) and they’ve been categorized into decades, starting with “modern” for anything in the past few years and then running all the way back to the ‘70s to deliver a little Lynrd Skynrd action.
While the songs do tend to get better as you progress through the campaign (assuming you’d rather listen to Blondie than Paramour), Decades tosses all notions of its predecessors gradually increasing difficulty aside. Instead of getting progressively harder as you work through the campaign the songs just get progressively older, meaning completing this one doesn’t lead to much of a feeling of accomplishment. However, the new ability to run through that campaign playing the rhythm/bass tracks as well gives Decades significantly more single-player shelf-life than On Tour.
Multiplayer longevity is boosted too thanks to WiFi compatibility with the original On Tour, enabling gamers with either cart to play the all the tracks from the other when connected wirelessly. That’s great if you have a friend who won’t be bothered to upgrade to the new one, but chances are you still aren’t totally sold that you should be making the upgrade yourself.
Primary among things to consider before buying is the unchanged fret attachment: if you can’t get comfortable with it you’ll be in pain long before you even hit the ‘90s. Also, with the same in-game engine you’ll still see bands that aren’t really playing along, hear sound that isn’t crystal clear, and deal with a touch-screen strumming mechanic that at its best takes a good bit of getting used to and at its worst isn’t responsive enough for technical riffs. Ultimately Decades is a better game than the first On Tour, and both games can be genuinely entertaining. But, it’s hard to see this as anything more than a 28-track expansion pack, and $35 ($50 if you get the bundle with the fret attachment) seems like a bit much for that.
ESRB: E10+, for lyrics
Plays Like: Guitar Hero On Tour
Pros: Reasonably faithful experience; new campaign mode adds some life; solid multiplayer
Cons: Still uncomfortable for most; looks, plays, and feels exactly like last On Tour