Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review: Devil Band: Rock the Underworld

Per normalcy, the 3DS's eShop has been updated today, once again.  Nintendo's online game stores have built quite a reputation for playing host for a ton of 'subpar' games.  On major review sites, they garnish the majority of lower-end scores--3's, 4's, so on.  Occasionally, higher-name games perform quite well.  These would be your Pushmo, your Sakura Samurai, etc.  If a game released through these outlets is even professionally reviewed at all, however, they really don't perform too hotly.

Just released today, Devil Band: Rock the Underworld is a perfect example of the mediocrity and lack of quality being pumped into Nintendo's online shops.

Devil Band is an interactive strategy/defense game.  You take control of a demonic metal band called 'Xaviors,' which rules legions of underworld fans with an iron fist.  In the opening bit, an NPC called "Biggest Fan" is praising the members of Xaviors, when all of a sudden,

"Look at the sky, it has grown dark all of a sudden."

Great...great writing at its finest, folks.  The line comes out of nowhere, and then suddenly the band's minions are being eaten by demonic beasts.

Yep.  Carrying on.

There is no backstory to the game, and barely a tutorial.  Devil Band plays uncannily similar to Plants vs. Zombies, just unpolished, and sloppy.  In fact, the game can be thought of as Plants vs. Zombies's goth, sub-par second cousin.  You have a selection of troops ('Fans') that you can place on a grid in the center of the touch screen.  On the left is the band, and enemies approach from the right...

Look familiar?

Devil Band's single uniqueness is how it lets you play as each member of the band.  You can tap each member to select (although I personally found using the up/down buttons on the D-pad to be much more effective), and then stroke from left to right to use a specialized attack.  For example, the lead guitarist shoots sound waves, the drummer creates rifts in the ground underneath enemies, etc.  One thing I think would serve to enhance this feeling of playing as different characters, would be to have the background music sort of 'highlight' different instruments.  When the keyboard player is selected, the keys part in the music would be slightly louder than the other tracks.  Play as the drummer, and the song's beat would be more pronounced.  I thought it was cool that each character had a different attack, but it still feels a bit incomplete.

Good luck getting past the first wave of enemies.  Devil Band is incredibly unforgiving.  And I mean, that's ok--challenging games are good games, usually.  But on the first level, when you don't have the in-game money to spend upgrading your fans, you will get slaughtered.  Repeatedly.  I feel that this could have been done so much better by implementing an actual tutorial.  Games with intricate and/or complex intricacies and systems are all well and good, but to be successful a very thorough establishment is needed.  Devil Band just doesn't perform well here, at all.

Speaking of music, for a game revolving around a band, it's surprisingly lackluster.  The score makes sense--I guess--but the sound quality isn't exactly swell.  Think of the music as a regular Castlevania sound, but done with a garage metal band.  Graphics are what you'd expect--cartoony and goth.  The game gets its 'T' rating from the bits of blood that spill out of enemies as you attack.

Devil Band: Rock the Underworld gets far from a standing ovation, or any sort of round of applause, really.  There is some depth beyond the defense nature of the game, such as upgrading your characters and fans, but it doesn't add enough value to warrant the game as playable.  With a textbook-dry story and dialogue, douchebag characters, and a needlessly unforgiving difficulty level, avoid this one--even if it is only $1.99.  That's basically $2 better spent towards a Virtual Console title, in my humble opinion.