Many of us know and love the Guitar Hero series (and its
close cousin, Rock Band). That a game can provide a challenge of
keeping good hand-eye coordination in time with some of the best
popular songs of the last few decades is, arguably, brilliant. It's
so brilliant that the Guitar Hero franchise has collected a
devoted following; most people under thirty have tried it, and
almost everyone has heard of it.
Guitar Hero: On Tour presents one obvious difference from its
console counterparts: it has no plastic, child-sized, buttoned
guitar controller. Rather, the game comes with a unique "guitar
grip," a piece with four buttons (instead of Guitar Hero's
usual five), which plugs into the part of the DS system usually
reserved for backwards-compatibility with Game Boy Advance games.
It's a very well-constructed apparatus: it has its own holder for
the guitar pick (to be explained soon), as well as a strap to keep
the game system in your hand while your fingers are busy pressing
The game utilizes the system's dual screens very well. On one side,
you watch the familiar guitar strut with green, red, yellow and blue
buttons scrolling toward you (and seamless animation in the
background). The other screen displays your score, your crowd
approval, and your "rock out" meter (used to determine score
bonuses) - but mainly, the screen shows a big picture of your
With the strap holding one hand to the buttons, your other is free
to use the guitar pick to strum the strings of the picture of the
guitar on the touch screen. Note - the game provides a lefty mode
with button color reversal that perfectly mirrors the righty mode
with a quick setting change.
You needn't worry too much about accuracy when strumming: strumming
anywhere on the screen - either lifting the pick between strums or
strumming back and forth - will allow you to hit the note (as long
as you've got the right button pressed and strum at the right time).
Wiggling the pick quickly back-and-forth anywhere on the screen
allows you to use the whammy bar for held notes.
While the design of the game is great, allowing it to be played
easily on the go, it does expect a small level of awkward
contortionism that takes some getting used to. With one hand in the
guitar grip, and the other holding the pick, you might feel left to
compromise between holding the game out from your body and bending
your wrist at an uncomfortable carpal-tunnel-causing angle, and
holding the game close to your body to relieve the wrist strain but
running into trouble using the guitar pick effectively. You'll have
to find what's right for you.
One option, if you find game play uncomfortable and are willing to
exchange some of the aesthetic for extra functionality, is to
abandon the guitar pick and use your thumbnail. You may want your DS
wearing screen protector sheaths in this case. Using your thumb, you
don't have to hold the DS at an awkward angle, and can pick
accurately: just rest your fingers at the "top" of the DS, above the
touch screen, and let your thumb do the work (if you have a long
enough thumbnail, that is).
Your "Star Power" bonus is noise-triggered. If you don't want to
shout "Rock Out!" like the game suggests while you're riding the bus
to work, just try blowing air at the microphone. Another alternative
is to press any of the four lettered DS buttons - though this might
interfere with your strumming.
On Tour comes with twenty-five songs: less than the console
versions, but impressive for that tiny little game cartridge. It
includes classic tracks like No Doubt's "Spiderwebs" and Jet's "Are
You Gonna Be My Girl," as well as some that are likely to be less
familiar - but you'll sure know them by the time you complete them
in expert mode!
Expert Mode in this game, by the way, is easier to succeed in than
in other Guitar Hero games. With four strut buttons rather
than five, those players who love the game but "just can't manage"
that pesky fifth button (which requires either moving the whole hand
from side to side or having an extra-dexterous pinkie finger) will
experience some relief. With On Tour, players get to experience the
ultra-fast-paced complexity of playing like an Expert without
worrying about moving between buttons. Expert mode is slightly
easier than in other Guitar Hero games, but that doesn't mean
it's a cake walk: the game still expects a lot from four-finger
While this game does have some small problems for players lacking
double-jointed wrists, these problems can be overcome easily.
Overall, On Tour's equipment does a wonderful job at
mimicking a portable guitar and providing a reasonable, reachable
challenge with its game play. The songs are catchy - the franchise
has by no means run out of popular songs to "Guitar-Heroify" - and
the game is easy to play yet demanding to complete in Expert Mode.
Because bringing the game to the DS required a lot of originality
and creativity in addition to the other great features mentioned,
Guitar Hero: On Tour for the Nintendo DS deserves a five of five
- Fun game for teens.
- Responsive gameplay.
- Reasonably challenging.
- Requires some adjustment in order to uses the controls.
For more information, user reviews, or to buy:
Guitar Hero: On Tour
Reviewed: November 2008