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

Guitar Hero Live

Guitar Hero Live

Spring 2016 Video Games
Ages: 13 & Up
Publisher: Activision, Inc.
Price: $99.99

Rock and roll fantasies come to life in the latest version of the Guitar Hero franchise. Much of the discussion of Guitar Hero Live centers on the ways the new game is better or worse than previous versions. I can only say that this game is a solid smash with my entire family of aspiring shredders. For parents worried about any isolation that comes from immersion in gaming, this is a game with a real, live social dimension. This game is so much more fun with others that it is almost always played in pairs or larger groups.

The "Live" in the title should tip everyone off to the biggest change to the game: you are wielding your ax in front of a live audience. Their reactions change depending on your ability to execute riffs. Your bandmates and even roadies give you feedback too, making the rock star sensation even more compelling. Warning: the fickle crowd can turn hostile rather quickly when your jamming isn't up to snuff, as can your own kids.

The songs that come with the set include only a few that my wife and I knew, but the kids thought it was a fine selection. It is rock 'n roll guitar, after all, so if your tastes are more on the mellow side, you may want to leave the room when the power chords start to roar.

The second big feature of Guitar Hero Live is the potential for non-stop play on an MTV-style streaming music format, in which a wide variety of tunes appear on several channels. These playlists include a broad range of tracks, many of which will be familiar to the young rockers in your house, but may be new to parents. As for me, I like hearing what is going on in popular music, even if I don't necessarily like all of it. There are even a few oldies thrown in to keep us aging stars engaged.

In addition to the songs that appear on the regular rotation, players can "purchase" additional songs to play along as they want them, jukebox-style. This doesn't necessarily require real cash. By playing the game, players accumulate game currency to redeem for these additional on-demand songs.

Apparently the guitar controller differs a great deal from earlier models, and the new system does not work with older guitars. With no other experience under our belt, we liked the new plastic ax just fine, although it does stretch your dexterity as well as your sense of rhythm. The two-guitar option adds a competitive dimension to your family's musical exploits. For the singers in your family, the system accommodates a mic and vocals. For a welcome gaming respite from warfare and sports games, try some rock and roll. In the words of a famous group of aging rockers, "It's only Rock and Roll, but I like it;" and we do too.

Sam Hillers   ©2016 Parents' Choice
Sam Hillers is a former investment analyst turned teacher of English and history. In addition to his academic pursuits, he loves blues and soul music, racehorses, hot sauce, Asian markets, craft beer, YA fiction, and well-made toys. Whenever possible, he shares these passions with his three boys: Bo, Redding, and Mason.

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