Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Guitar Hero World Tour

Guitar Hero World Tour

Spring 2009 Video Games
Ages: 10 & Up
Price: $189.99
Gaming System: Nintendo Wii
First came the phenomenally popular Guitar Hero, one of the most innovative videogames ever, putting a guitar-shaped controller in the player's hands and simulating playing an electric guitar on an impressive variety of recognizable hit tunes. Sort of guitar karaoke and very cool.

Then, the multiplayer Rock Band arrived, raising the ante by simulating an entire rock band. With up to four players joining in on drums, lead guitar, bass guitar and vocals, it was all about keeping up with on-screen prompts, driving the actions of the on-screen animated avatars (members of the band) and producing a virtual on-stage experience. Even cooler.

Now, Guitar Hero World Tour strikes back with its own rock-band that offers a few new features plus its own premium load of more than 80 great songs. Not that Guitar Hero World Tour revolutionizes this remarkable gaming genre. In fact, it mostly just catches up with Rock Band-but does so with some nice alterations. And, like Rock Band, Guitar Hero World Tour creates an undeniable feeling that you're playing on-stage in a rock band-enough of a dream come true for some kids that they may be inspired, like my youngest son, to learn to play real instruments!

Players start by plugging in their instruments and creating their band. This is actually more fun than you'd ever figure. Each player uses The Rock Star Creator to customize a virtual image of him or herself with lots of detail-from facial features and hairstyle to body structure and skin tone, right down to tattoos and on-stage attitude and behavior (punk, rocker, metal, etc.). You can actually create a reasonable semblance of yourself and go wild on the looks of the instrument you're playing.

Rock-simulated gamers will find the new Wii guitar a bit larger than the other versions and, more importantly, it's wireless-a huge plus. No leash to the system so no need to fret! And it's easy to play and offers two worthy innovations-a star-power button for easier hyper-playing and a touch-sensitive neck slider that makes it all a bit more realistic. The drums are nicely responsive (some reports of problems working but ours worked fine). The mic for the singer makes the vocalist no detriment to the band. And if you've got an extra sim-guitar you can add a bass player, too.

The concert venues on-screen are a blast-wild, crazy and colorful fun. And the song list spreads across enough music genres to satisfy anyone-from The Allman Brothers' "Ramblin' Man," The Eagles' "Hotel California" and Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell" to Coldplay's "Shiver," Willie Nelson's "On The Road Again" and Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train." Van Halen, Foo Fighters, Linkin Park, Sublime, Steve Miller, Bob Seger, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix! The list is excellent.

And there's the guitar-duel feature, solo-singing career mode, even a Battle of the Bands mode where you compete against another band online-people you know or just met via the Internet! Wow!

Bigger news is the Music Creator mode where you write your own original song and music track, even share it online if you want so people somewhere else in the world can play the music you created. Nothing too fancy, so don't get recording-studio dreams, but it's a fun and challenging feature.

Ah, friends not comin' over? Don't want to play by yourself? No need. You can join an online band with the other members elsewhere but maybe looking for a drummer or singer.

Who woulda thought? If you already own the latest Rock Band game, you probably don't need to spend this much for something similar. But if you don't, or if you're a Wii devotee awaiting something like this, don't wait any longer. This is too cool.

Don Oldenburg   ©2009 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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Activision, Inc.
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