|Dev: Sonic Boom|
|Pub: Sonic Boom|
|Release: July 20, 2010|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
Sound-wise, we had no problem with the actual recordings (Rhythm Zone plays files as well as any media player does), but the effects leave something to be desired. Mistakes are met with static and/or the song lowering in volume (you can turn both effects off in the options), and bland chimes tell you when you're doing a good job. Also, relative to its big-name competitors, Rhythm Zone has rudimentary graphics. While the fretboard looks nice enough, there are no screaming crowds, no Slash or Joe Perry character models, and not even so much as a stage.
The controls are fine for the most part. You can use your keyboard to play (by default, ASDF and JKL; play notes, and the space bar gives you "focus power"), and the game is compatible with all of the USB-based guitar peripherals. Unfortunately, however, it doesn't support strumming; all you have to do is hit the correct button at the correct time to get points for a note. While Rhythm Zone's failure to create believable tracks kills the immersion factor on its own, the lack of strumming doesn't help matters.
To be fair, Rhythm Zone does most of the little things right. For example, when it analyzes your track, it locates in the last.fm database and names it, and we had 100 percent success with this feature. It also enables you to send and receive high-score challenges on songs you share in common with other users. Further, the included visualizer works well. Additional visualizers are available as DLC. For the most part, you won't pay much attention to the various images and patterns that move about in the background, but sometimes they'll do just the right thing at just the right time. For example, "T.N.T." speeds up dramatically at the end, and the visualizer emphasized this change by shaking and pumping much more noticeably in time with the music. A little touch like that can help induce an adrenaline rush in the player, and the rock-star fantasy is what these games are all about.
But you need more than a good light show to be a rock star. Games like Guitar Hero are fun because they allow gamers to feel like they're playing the guitar without actually, you know, learning to play the guitar. To give someone that feeling, developers need to spend the time sorting out each song's guitar track and assembling a note track that matches. As of now, there's no way for a computer to take a random song, find the guitars, and create a plausible note track from scratch. Seen purely as a matter of technology, Rhythm Zone might be a useful first step in changing that. But this idea has a long way to go before it poses any threat to the rhythm-game genre's heavy hitters.
CCC Freelance Writer