Guitar Hero On Tour
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-07-05 Nintendo DS Music/Rhythm E10 (Everyone 10+) Red Octane / Activision

Ever since I saw the first teaser for Guitar Hero On Tour I was apprehensive. It just didn't seem like the kind of game that would work for a handheld, even if the fret button add-on seemed like an interesting concept. So does this Guitar Hero rock... or not?

On Tour comes packaged in a neat little box containing the game cartridge in a plastic casing, guitar grip, an adaptor for the original DS model, a guitar pick stylus and some funky little stickers that you can slap on your DS for fun.

The guitar grip is a four-button attachment that plug in to the GBA cartrige slot and has an adjustable velcro strap to give your hand more stability. Basically, you hold your DS sideways like a book, placing your fingers on the fret buttons. A lefty flip option makes it possible for left-handed gamers to play more comfortably. Your free hand will be holding the pick and strumming on the touch screen.

On the left screen, you will have your notes, scrolling from top to bottom. On the right screen, your score, crowd pleasing meter, star power and multipliers are shown, along with a guitar. To strum, you press down the respective fret button and slide the stylus across the guitar strings. It takes time to get used to it and get the movements timed, but even when you get the hang of it, it's still tricky.

To activate star power, you can either yell at the microphone, tap the star meter or press one of the A-B-X-Y buttons. I found that yelling "Rock on!" randomly would make me look crazy (and attract funny looks) and pressing the buttons wasn't good enough since I had to stop strumming to reach them.

Trying to tap the star meter was the best option, even if most of the time it would make me miss a strum, so I found myself waiting for a longer pause between notes to actually tap it without affecting my note streak. I guess the point really is to yell and look crazy here.

As usual, the four difficulty modes are included: Easy, Medium, Hard, Expert. You progress through the venues by successfully playing the list of songs and the encore for each venue. Encores and unknown venues are marked with question marks until you unlock them. Performing well rewards you with unlocked items in the store and cash to spend.

Multiplayer is a pretty neat feature in this pocket-size edition of Guitar Hero. You can join or host a game in Face-Off, Pro Face-Off, Co-Op or Duel. Duels can also be played solo, against one of the game's characters, and it's a pretty entertaning mode. There is no Star Power in a duel, you get power-ups instead. By hitting all the notes in a certain combo, you get special attacks to use on your opponent. These include a screen flip, muted music, bomb notes that you can't touch, speeding up the notes, setting the screen on fire and sending fans in with odd objects for autographs.

The music and sound effects are pretty good, but it sounds a bit odd when coming out of the speakers, perhaps because they're not centered in front of you. My husband mentioned many times that from where I was playing in the room, the songs would sound like little more than some cacophony where he was sitting. I'd recommend headphones for the best sound experience.

The track list is a mixed bag, as usual, containing Twisted Sister, Kiss, Nirvana, ZZ Top, Jet, Smash Mouth, Blink 182 and many more. Unfortunately, quite a few of these are covers, but they are nicely done.

The main issues for me while playing were not reaching the blue fret button properly and the unit moving slightly while playing. I have small hands and short fingers (which is the main reason why I have a hard time playing regular Guitar Hero on Hard, let alone on Expert), and I found that grasping the DS and adaptor one-handed was not only hard but also painful after three or four songs.

During my play sessions, I kept noticing the adaptor moving a little, a slight wobbling if you will. If the adaptor does move out of place, you get an error message and your only solution is to turn the DS off and back on again.

However, I'm impressed with how well this works on the DS. Granted, I prefer to be a dork with a plastic guitar in my living room, but On Tour gives me a very cool Guitar Hero fix no matter where I may be.

Special thanks to Neil Wood, Wiebke Hesse and Activision for providing a copy of this title.