Just two short years ago, venturing a guess that another game, an unknown game at that, would steal Dance Dance Revolution‘s well worn crown as the dominant rhythm action game for consoles would have been seen as the height of hubris. Yet that is exactly what peripheral manufacturer RedOctane and Harmonix Music Systems accomplished in 2005 with the release of Guitar Hero for the PlayStation 2, a game that not only captured the enthusiasm of the rhythm game community, but the larger gaming community as well. The industry was forced to sit up and take notice as both RedOctane and Harmonix set out upon a nearly untouched blue ocean while gamers and non-gamers pinned for their chance to grasp the game’s signature glossy black guitar-shaped controller.
In many ways, 2005 belonged to Guitar Hero in gaming circles, and the game’s sequel that followed a year later was met with frenzied zeal, offering more songs, modes, and a return to the same gameplay that made the initial title an instant icon. Legions of vicarious rockers were pleased, however the release was later weighed against news that Harmonix had been acquired by MTV, with the television network and publisher Electronic Arts later tapping the studio for their own rhythm action game, called simply Rock Band. Truly the lines had been drawn for what many predict will be a terrific showdown between rhythm game giants in Fall 2007, but before Harmonix would move on to its new home, the studio had one more title to unveil for the franchise it helped launch. Known by the somewhat tortured title Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s, this latest release brings a new set of tracks from the decade of excess. Unfortunately, it brings little else to the party.
Virtually indistinguishable from Guitar Hero II, Encore serves as little more than a standalone song pack, a realization that would be entirely welcome had the selection been truly indicative of the decade from which it is pulled. While some songs feel right at home, other choices feel strange or just out of place, making the overall collection feel disjointed as players wonder aloud A